Daily Taraf: ‘Police chief attempts to provide voting results only to state-run news agency’

A senior police chief from the capital Ankara had allegedly called police chiefs of all provinces and told them to provide election results to only state-run Anadolu news agency, Taraf daily claimed on Saturday.

The allegation had caused an outrage in the country and the daily interpreted this move as an attempt to demoralize the opponents of the ruling Justice and Development Party.

Cihan news agency, which had been successfully delivering election results for the past several elections had expressed its frustration regarding the allegations and stated that it will not let such incident to occur during revelation of the elections results on Sunday.

The Anadolu news agency, which will release immediate voting results for the first time in its history, denied the allegations, stating that the police departments have no authority to give elections results and that the results of the ballot boxes are only provided by the Supreme Election Board (YSK).

The Turkish electorate will vote to elect their new mayors, city council members and neighborhood officials on March 30. But they will also acquire the first opportunity to express their opinion, by casting their votes, about the recent developments in the country — claims of corruption and bribery in particular.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) believes that strong support to come out of the ballot box for the party will mean that the people pay no heed to those claims, and if this happens the party will move forward on its path as if nothing has happened to question its legitimacy. The opposition parties, on the other hand, agree that the AK Party and its government have already lost their legitimacy and that the local elections will determine the “future of Turkey.”

Now that the local elections are more than local elections, claims of vote rigging have topped the national agenda. Both the AK Party and the opposition parties have voiced their concerns that there may be attempts of voter fraud and election manipulation on March 30.

The YSK and the political parties have taken various measures against vote rigging.

The election board will apply a new method against attempts to tamper with votes for the first time in the March 30 elections. Under the new method, the YSK will cooperate with the Ankara-based Turkish informatics and software company Havelsan. The election board will send scanners to every district election council to scan the results of every district and save the results in computers. The results will be shared with the headquarters of all the political parties. The parties, in this way, will be able to learn how many votes were cast for them in every neighborhood, district and province. They will also obtain an opportunity to compare those results with the results compiled by their observers at the ballot box. If the parties detect a difference in the results sent by the YSK and their observers, the parties will file a complaint at the election board to recount the votes if necessary and remove discrepancies.

A total of 196,000 ballot boxes will be set up across Turkey on March 30. More than 52.5 million voters will cast votes.

The political parties have assigned many observers for each ballot box around Turkey. The AK Party, for instance, plans to send 1 million observers to the ballot boxes. The observers are official members of the ruling party. They will watch against any attempt of vote rigging and report results of each box to the party’s headquarters. AK Party Chairman Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is also the prime minister, reportedly asked the observers to report results to the party headquarters within two hours following the opening of the ballot boxes.

The Interior Ministry has also taken a number of measures to ensure security at the ballot box. The ministry has ordered municipalities to work against any electricity cut on March 30 as the counting process may continue until the late hours. In addition, police officers and gendarmes will accompany ballot boxes as they are transported to YSK offices. A statement from the Interior Ministry said armored vehicles and helicopters may be used for the transfer if necessary.


About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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