Voting fraud alert as Turkey’s election board fails to deliver data on country’s May 14 polls

Voting fraud alert as Turkey’s election board fails to deliver data on country’s May 14 polls
Erdogan casts his voting paper in the May 14 elections. / Reuters video, screengrab
By bne IntelIiNews May 26, 2023

Turkey’s Supreme Election Board (YSK) has failed to provide public access to the data behind the officially declared results of the country’s presidential and parliamentary elections held on May 14 and has also blocked access to the 2018 election data on its website, according to local reports.

The lack of access could prompt claims that the YSK—often criticised for being too close to the ruling Erdogan administration—is attempting to prevent the exposure of possible ballot box fraud prior to the Sunday May 28 presidential runoff vote. Since the YSK has not provided the detailed official election results from two weeks ago, while the 2018 election results are no longer accessible, it is not possible to carry out a comparison of data for ballot box security purposes.

In the presidential first-round vote, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confounded the pundits and pollsters by defeating opposition unity candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu by 49.5% to 44.9%, while the votes of the parliamentary election give Erdogan’s ruling AKP party a clear pathway to maintaining control of the legislature with junior coalition partners.

Turkish daily Cumhuriyet on May 23 quoted a retired chief civil service inspector, Mahmut Esen, as saying: “There is a need for up-to-date election results in terms of public scrutiny. It is clear that inspections made after the job is done will be too late. When everything is finalised, it will not make much sense. 

“Since even access to the 2018 election results has been blocked, it is understood that the YSK does not sufficiently trust its own work or processes.”

Esen pointed out that prior to the elections, the YSK announced that citizens would be able to access a search engine via its official website in order to view the results data and voting process minutes. However, in the days after polling day, the search engine was not activated, while also the block on the 2018 data was introduced.

After Erdogan was announced as the first-round vote winner, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), led by Kilicdaroglu, was criticised for not mounting a workable ballot box surveillance operation nationwide, despite promising that it had enough volunteers to do so. The CHP’s parallel counting mechanism failed and, on May 16, bne IntelliNews reported on how it appeared that the official in charge of the CHP election security, Onursal Adiguzel, had been fired. This publication also explored the debate on how much ballot box fraud may have featured in the May 14 vote.

With the official vote data not released by the YSK—the data were supposed to be released on May 19, according to the body’s declared election calendar—the Turkish parliament, expected to hold its first post-election legislative session on May 22, did not convene and planned swearing-in ceremonies were not held.

Among surprises in the outcome of the parliamentary vote were the performance of the far right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), a ruling coalition partner of Erdogan’s AKP in the last parliament, which increased its vote in Kurdish-populated areas in southeastern Turkey.

Nordic Monitor, meanwhile, reported on May 26 that there are analysts who claim that third-placed ultranationalist presidential candidate Sinan Ogan’s election result of 5.17% of votes cast was questionable because the almost homogeneous distribution of votes seen for Ogan across the country was incompatible with Turkey’s sociological and ethnic realities. Ogan announced earlier this week that he was endorsing Erdogan in the runoff.

The publication also reported that many voters who have expressed doubts about the election results find it suspicious that the number of voters in the southern provinces that were devastated by February’s double-earthquake disaster increased despite the tremendous loss of life—at least 60,000 people died, it is thought—and the fact that tens of thousands of residents moved to other cities after the catastrophe.

Erdogan increased his vote in the earthquake-hit region despite coming under fire for failures to deliver aid and send rescue teams immediately after the disaster struck.

Journalist Can Atakli on May 25 on his YouTube channel reiterated a claim that previously appeared on the TR724 news website. He told viewers that software and election experts discovered that hundreds of thousands of people voted many times with fictitious IDs and that a report on the matter had gone to the CHP mayor of Istanbul and opposition bloc vice presidential candidate Ekrem Imamoglu. TR724 previously linked the claimed fraud to the interior ministry, the authority that issues national IDs.

Nordic Monitor also reported that an informatics expert, Fusun Nebil, working with a team of academics and population experts, said there was an inconsistency between the population growth rates announced by the Turkish Statistical Institute (TUIK, or TurkStat) and the number of voters announced by the YSK.

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said after the May 14 vote that the process for handling complaints at all levels of Turkey’s election administration lacked transparency. It added that published YSK decisions generally did not come with sufficient reasoning.