Turkey’s June 2018 election was “rigged just enough” – think-tank

Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections took place on a very tilted playing field and were “rigged just enough”, a report by Howard Eissenstat for the Washington, DC-based think-tank Project on Middle East Democracy.

“Rather than blocking opposition candidates from running or engaging in barefaced, wide-scale cheating, structural manipulations that alter the terrain of competition just enough in a closely divided electorate are the core of Erdoğan’s strategy for ensuring victory at the polls,” Eissenstat said, adding that changes in the electoral law had been a major part of the change.

“Building on Erdoğan’s earlier weakening of the YSK(Supreme Electoral Board), the new law removed political party representatives from the electoral board, leaving its membership composed only of civil servants. Given the extent of the (ruling Justice and Development Party) AKP’s  influence over the civil service, this change effectively guaranteed that the YSK would be reliable in a crisis. The importance of this cannot be overstated.”

In addition, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan used powers under the state of emergency to close down civil society organisations and arrest opposition campaigners, Eissenstat said.

The government’s grip over the media meant that it was largely the AKP’s message that was heard, as well, he added.

“Massive fraud is not necessary in a tight election. Out of 51.2 million valid votes, Erdoğan won the presidency by about 1.3 million votes; the AKP-MHP coalition won a majority in parliament by about 1.5 million votes. A little more than one million votes were either invalid or blank,” Eissenstat said.

“For the time being, there are no brakes remaining to halt Turkey’s authoritarian slide.”