|LEGITIMACY OF RECENT TURKISH ELECTIONS IN SERIOUS DOUBT|
A recent mission to the south-east of Turkey undertaken by the Kurdish Human Rights Project has uncovered serious allegations of malfeasance by the army and state in the recent parliamentary elections.
The allegations, which include torture, intimidation, unlawful detention and electoral fraud, centre around supposed efforts to diminish the level of popular support for DEHAP, the pro-Kurdish bloc of parties which dominated the voting in the Kurdish regions, tallying just under two million votes. However, under the Turkish electoral system, parties must achieve at least 10% of the vote nationwide to be eligible for the allocation of parliamentary seats. DEHAP scored only 6.2% and thus, despite being the leading party in 12 Kurdish provinces, achieved no national representation.
DEHAP officials in Hakkari, near the Iraqi and Iranian borders, charged that in the surrounding villages the military held meetings warning villagers that if they voted for DEHAP, they would be displaced from their homes. This allegation was confirmed even by the Justice and Development Party (AKP), the eventual election victors, which suggested that military officers had visited local villagers to offer “advice”.
DEHAP officials also alleged that they were frequently prevented from going into rural areas to campaign. In one village, shots were fired into the air as a warning to leave, and householders who had spoken to the DEHAP delegation were later taken to the military centre and detained for questioning. In another, Geçiple, although the vote was held as an illegal open ballot, the results were such that the army later detained and supposedly tortured thirty village guards, the state’s own local appointees.
Several tribal leaders were forced to stand as “independent candidates” in the Hakkari election, on the assumption that tribal loyalties would oblige their followers to vote for them. Many people arriving at polling stations found that false entries on the electoral register rendered them ineligible to vote. Police and military officials frequently oversaw the polling process armed with a list of people wanted for questioning, further deterring people from participating. It is estimated that altogether around 25,000 eligible people were unable to vote in the Hakkari region.
Furthermore, according to Goç-Der, the association for displaced peoples, perhaps only 30% of the almost 100,000 displaced people living in the town of Hakkari, who outnumber residents by an estimated 3 to 1, were eligible to take part in the elections due to problems with registration and polling location. A DEHAP petition listing these abuses was not accepted by the courts.
Similar stories were heard in Tunceli, where despite legal prohibitions to the contrary, the regional governor openly campaigned for the far-right MHP party. By law, a petition compiled by local people to protest his activities had to be submitted to the governor himself.
The mission met with numerous groups, including trade unions, government and local officials, human rights organisations, journalists and political parties. Several of the interviewees suggested that there was a wider context to the reported electoral abuses, and focused on the alleged desire of both the Turkish state and Western interests to bring the Islamist AKP into government in order to pre-empt Muslim protests over Turkey’s role in the imminent invasion of Iraq.
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
1. The Kurdish Human Rights Project works for the promotion and protection of human rights within the Kurdish regions of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria and the former Soviet Union.