May 17 2018

OSCE to send observers for Turkey’s June 24 elections

The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) Needs Assessment Mission (NOM) to Turkey has recommended the secondment of 28 longterm observers from OSCE participating States to follow the electoral process countrywide for the upcoming elections on June 24, as well as 350 short-term observers to follow election day proceedings in a report published on Wednesday. 

The Mission visited Turkey between 8-10 May and had consultations with various stakeholders, including government agencies and civil society organisations working on election security. 

The needs assessment report of the mission notes that many interlocutors in Turkey indicated the need to deploy a sufficient number of observers to follow the process countrywide, including on election day. 

Interlocutors’ concerns were mainly related to recent legal amendments, including on election day procedures, the holding of elections under an ongoing state of emergency, media access and coverage, and the conduct of the campaign, in particular regarding possible pressure on voters and other stakeholders. 

The report also points out that previous ODIHR recommendations remain unaddressed.  ODIHR has previously deployed six election-related activities to Turkey and its final report on the 16 April 2017 constitutional referendum concluded that the referendum “took place on an unlevel playing field and the two sides of the campaign did not have equal opportunities”. The report also noted that voters were not provided with impartial information about key aspects of the reform, fundamental freedoms were curtailed due to the state of emergency imposed after the coup attempt in 2016, the media coverage was biased in favour of the government, and late changes in counting procedures removed an important safeguard of the elections.

Turkish president Erdoğan called the ODIHR observers sympathisers of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a Kurdish armed group, which has been fighting inside Turkey for more than 30 years, after the OSCE published its report on the 16 April referendum.

"The OSCE is obligated to send observers who are impartial and independent, however, we see the pictures of its observers holding PKK flags in terrorists group's rallies, promoting the "no" campaign. How are we supposed to believe OSCE is impartial after sending these people to monitor the referendum?" Erdoğan said during an interview in A News in April 2017.