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Did Erdoǧan cheat in the 2018 Turkish election?

Cheating means, for example:

  1. Gerrymandering
  2. Buying/bribing/scaring voters
  3. Jailing/scaring/assassinating candidates
  4. Interrupting/blocking candidates from canvassing
  5. Ballot stuffing
  6. Manipulating the result

Post is related to a rapidly changing event.

  • 36
    If Gerrymandering counts as cheating, in virtually every US election there has been cheating. – Shufflepants Jun 26 '18 at 13:47
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    While Gerrymandering and indirect voter suppression probably should be considered cheating, they are also legal in many places. So some forms of cheating are legal and some are illegal. – Mark Rogers Jun 26 '18 at 14:21
  • I heard something about moving the polling stations in the Kurd territories, such that people had to travel 20-30 km crossing multiple police checkpoints to vote. Has this been documented somewhere? In one of his speeches before the election, Erdogan apparently said something like "Yes, there has been voter fraud but only in the terrorist regions [meaning Kurdistan], but we have fixed that." Is that what he meant? – Jörg W Mittag Jun 26 '18 at 22:27
  • 1
    @Shufflepants Yes and yes theconversation.com/… – Jens Schauder Jun 27 '18 at 10:46
61

As a Turkish liberal who does not support conservatives and as a voter who spent many times watching the opposition speeches my answer is: It depends what you call cheating.

If you mean stealing votes or adding more votes than there are, then as the liberal opposition candidate Mr. Ince said, "no". Even though there were some reports of illegal actions going on, the difference in votes was ~10 million votes, which is thousand times more than the possible illegal things which might happened.

But meanwhile the president Mr. Erdoğan used all government resources (like planes etc... which of course we liberals also pay with our taxes) opposition mostly run their campaign with our donations. Many TV channels didn't give screen time to opposition leaders. Since not only public but also most of the private media is under Mr. Erdoğan's control, it was totally unfair. "Doğan Media", probably Turkey's biggest media organisation, which was the last media organization which didn't support any group directly was sold to an Erdoğan supporter recently.

Please use google translate to see the time distribution between opposition and Mr. Erdoğan in government public TV.

Bottom line: The AKP get ~40 hours all other opposition get only ~3 hours. It is much more worse in government controlled private media.

There were more things which I think were totally unfair (like election being run while martial law is going on etc...). But I don't want to nag about them.

As a proud Turkish citizen I still respect conservatives I hope these things will be more fair in the future. These are our problems which we have to solve ourselves. Also despite unfair things, we should self criticize as liberals. We have to work harder and also try to anticipate and understand our conservative citizens.

  • 23
    One other factor to be considered that some might call cheating is the massive campaign by Erdogan and his party to get the expat Turks in Europe (in particular the large Turkish communities in the Netherlands and Germany) to vote, people who overwhelmingly support Erdogan and his policies (though they themselves are not subject to them of course, not living in Turkey) and get their information about Turkey exclusively from the state run Turkish media and their state funded Turkish mosques. This added an estimated quarter million votes for Erdogan from the Netherlands alone. – jwenting Jun 26 '18 at 6:00
  • 1
    A great answer that highlights that you would have needed massive fraud to get away with faking 10 million votes, not a few hundred. The problem is elsewhere. – pipe Jun 26 '18 at 8:59
  • Mr. Ince had a case before in his career for a smaller election. For municipality elections in 2014 AKP(conservative lead party) was initial winner by only one vote. Than Mr. Ince follow the case all night and made a recount which result with CHP(liberal opposition) winning with 6 votes amongst 50000 total votes. You have to use google translate again Iif you want to check it hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/… – Kadir Erdem Demir Jun 26 '18 at 10:45
  • 1
    Although I know the situation in Turkey is much worse, it is common for media in western democraties to be extremely biased as well, in particular in my country towards the progressive left, which doesn't prevent other parties to get many votes as well. – Bregalad Jun 26 '18 at 12:59
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    @Bregalad, ... I know the situation in Turkey is much worse ... - citation needed. – user21304 Jun 26 '18 at 18:02
45

It's unclear. There have yet to be credible international election observers who have made a statement as to the accuracy of the vote count. Some opposition politicians have contested the counts of the vote, but their own election observers counted similar tallies. Some videos have surfaced showing alleged voter fraud, with the opposition claiming vote-rigging. These allegations have yet to be independently verified. From what I was able to find online, there haven't been any "Egypt-like" actions from Erdogan to limit who can run against him--there was a legal and organized opposition. This is not to say the candidates were on a perfectly level playing field, but as of now there has not been credible evidence of large-scale voter fraud.

UPDATE: The OSCE has issued a statement clarifying the extent of unfairness within this election. They list no voter fraud, and note that the people were given a choice, but note that state-run media heavily favored Erdogan and that the opposition did not get fair time. However, they cited the 87% voter turnout as a positive sign for Turkish democracy, as 87% is well above the average voter participation for most democratic elections.

  • What do you mean by "Egypt-like"? – Casanova Jun 27 '18 at 9:40
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    @Casanova In Egypt the ruling party has banned and arrested effectively any opposition candidate, and used intimidation to "encourage" others not to run. – Eremi Jun 27 '18 at 12:35
  • 3
    High voter participation isn't really a good indicator for democratic-ness. During the Nazi regime and also the GDR voter participation has always been in the high 90s, close to 100%. That's not really a good indicator that the systems were especially democratic. – Cubic Jun 27 '18 at 13:44
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    I don't disagree--but the OSCE specifically cites it as a positive sign, in conjunction with limited evidence that the turnout figures or voting totals were fabricated. – Eremi Jun 27 '18 at 14:17
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    High voter turnout (when it's not compulsory !) is a sign that people are interested in voting, which is one sign of a healthy democracy. Of course not everyone thinks of a popular vote as a good way to select government leaders ... :-) – StephenG Jun 28 '18 at 15:38
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As noted, offical analysis from foreign observers will come later. However the Opposition leader Mr Ince, said that "the election was unfair" but "there was no significant difference between official results and his party's figures, and therefore he would accept the outcome". (BBC)

There have been widespread reports of voter fraud, intimidation, and other unfair practices. Mr Erdogan had the advantages of being an incumbent and has jailed numerous opposition activists, and journalists. It was not "a level playing ground". But it is not clear if this should invalidate the result.

  • 11
    There have been widespread reports of voter fraud, intimidation, and other unfair practices. Mr Erdogan had the advantages of being an incumbent and has jailed numerous opposition activists, and journalists. - citation needed. – user21304 Jun 25 '18 at 16:19
  • I took this from the BBC and other news reports. – James K Jun 25 '18 at 18:06
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    @JamesK It would be nice to link these news reports so others can inform themselves and have more than just your word that this is indeed correct. – Philipp Jun 25 '18 at 22:00
  • I doubt if anywhere free opposition leader talks about something other than "unfair elections".) – user2501323 Jun 26 '18 at 6:17
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    No, it is quite common in mature democracies for the losing party to accept the result. – James K Jun 26 '18 at 6:18
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For the election day, the answer is NO. He didn't (or couldn't) cheat, we didn't let him.

Jun 26, 2018 was the due date to object to the election results. All parties had objections in some provinces, but none of them are major.

Since the only reference I have is in Turkish, I'll try to summarize.

  • The most common objection is for the provinces, where one of the MPs has been barely elected. For example, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) lost one MP to the Justice and Development Party (AKP) by 370 votes in Elazig province. If the Supreme Election Council (YSK) accepts the objection, the votes in this province will be re-counted.

  • There were 14K invalid votes in Mugla province. AKP claims that it was around 8K in the previous elections. They requested the invalid votes to be re-evaluated. There are similar objections from the other parties as well (e.g. Iyi Party in Burdur province).

  • The Republican People's Party (CHP) say that there is 8K difference between the presidential and parliamentary votes in Düzce province. They also add that the reason of the difference is not mentioned in the record books.

According to the news on Jun 27, YSK is re-evaluating some ballot boxes in 14 provinces.

In addition to these objections, totally 362 incidents happened during the election day. It was the most peaceful one of the last four elections.

Previous ones:

  • June 7, 2015 (general elections): 581 incidents
  • Nov 1, 2015 (general elections): 542 incidents
  • Apr 16, 2017 (referendum): 519 incidents

This election was more secure thanks to these two organizations.

  • Vote and Beyond (Turkish: Oy ve Ötesi): It's a neutral foundation observing ballot boxes. They were organized in all of 81 provinces (it was 46 in 2015). They are expected to present a final report within a few days.

  • Fair Election Platform (Turkish: Adil Seçim Platformu): This platform was established by the opposition parties and several NGOs just before this election. They ensured that each ballot box has at least one board member from the opposition.

Note: My answer only includes the election day. Please see the other answers for the other parts of the question, which I don't have any addition.

7

In addition to the other answers here, there have been reports of OSCE election monitors from outside Turkey being barred from entry, which has stoked concerns of how free and fair the elections were. It is rather questionable as to why Turkish authorities felt the need to deny entry to election monitors, from Germany and Sweden, who both happen to have large Turkish diasporas.

https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-turkey-election-observers/turkey-bars-at-least-two-european-election-observers-ahead-of-sundays-vote-idUKKBN1JH2P3

  • Good point--I'll note around 350 other OSCE election monitors were let in, these two were barred for "political reasons". Definitely a potentially troubling sign. – Eremi Jun 25 '18 at 15:50
  • Monitors were not just barred from entry, but in at least 3 cases (which made it into news here, who can tell how many more) arrested. – Damon Jun 25 '18 at 18:51
4

İnce's comment about fraud not amounting to ten million votes is specious. The important thing was not the difference between Erdoğan and İnce's vote; it was the number of votes in excess of 50%+1 that allowed Erdoğan to win in the first round; had the poll gone to a second round the whole opposition could be expected to rally round İnce. The minimum vote needed to win in the first round was half of the number of votes cast 50,730,337, which is 25,365,169. The official results put Erdoğan's vote at 26,068,146 or a mere 702,977 above this figure. I believe that the number of fraudulent votes was certainly more than this, given, for example, that it has been established that there are large numbers of bogus voters included on the voters' rolls used to cast extra votes for the ruling party by people voting with false IDs. The number of such bogus voters is estimated to be two million, enough on their own to have prevented Erdoğan having to face İnce in a second round.

From here:

Pekşen, indicating that a citizen obtained his father’s records and different civil registry particulars pertaining to his father were provided on these records and, showing the Directorate of Civil Registry documents, commented, “His father’s name is Osman Fikret, but is Osman Fikri on the record that was issued. His grandfather’s name has also changed. The name of his grandfather, which is Mehmet Nafiz, appears simply as Nafiz. With the same person, shown in all records as having been born on 01.07.1898, appearing on one document as having died on 10.01.1989, he appears to be alive on another document. The same person also appears in different records with different citizenship numbers and is shown to be dead in one record and alive in the other. This is all in civil registry records supplied by the state.”

And in another article from the same source there are indications that, in just one apartment building, the election rolls had 16% more people on them than lived there:

These people were not on the list at the subsequent election, but in the referendum they identified an additional six voters at the apartment! Residing at the apartment are 160 voters. Just think: 26 fake names means that there were 16% more voters.

  • 9
    This may be true, but you need to include some sort of source to back up your claims. – Jeff Lambert Jun 26 '18 at 12:58
  • Here is one reference with a photograph of a doctored civil registry record shown in the article: cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/english/937116/… – Tim Drayton Jun 27 '18 at 12:01
  • Here is another reference, giving an example with names of non-existent voters listed at an apartment block: cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/english/943561/… – Tim Drayton Jun 27 '18 at 12:03
  • I went ahead and found a couple of quotes from those two sources and added them to your answer to help it along, or you can update it with better quotes if you think there is a passage that better illustrates your point. – Jeff Lambert Jun 27 '18 at 12:15
  • I could perhaps just add that if you go to the English-language pages of the well-respected opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper: cumhuriyet.com.tr/bolum/48/english.html where the paper manages to produce a small number of translations of its content, you will find several more interesting articles about electoral fraud in Turkey. Anyone who can read Turkish will of course find far more material by doing a relevant search engine search. There are thankfully still journalists on the dwindling number of opposition newspapers and news websites who risk imprisonment and report these things. – Tim Drayton Jun 27 '18 at 17:40

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