Votes from abroad and the coming election

This weekend marks the end of the chance to cast votes in the Turkish election from abroad.
And so this gives us another opportunity to analyze what — if any — influence these votes have on the election as a whole. In the meantime, this election will be yet again another test for the Supreme Election Board (YSK). In the first election in which Turks could cast votes from abroad, the appointment system, which requires Turkish nationals to apply for an appointment and determine the day they will vote through an online procedure on the YSK website, was alleged to have had a negative effect on voter turnout. Even in cities like Berlin, where the population of Turks is particularly high, there were turnout rates as low as around 8 percent, which many pointed to as being one result of the appointment system for voting. This has subsequently been eliminated, but it likely not the only factor influencing low turnout. In the meantime, a great deal of curiosity surrounds the question of who exactly Turks abroad will be voting for.
Votes from abroad are also central in the crucial question of whether or not the Peoplesand’ Democratic Party (HDP) will surpass the 10 percent vote threshold, thus affecting the makeup of Parliament. For the HDP, votes from abroad are critical as to whether or not it will overcome the threshold while it is expecting around 500,000 votes, even 250,000 from abroad would be a huge success for the HDP.
At the same time, while there are places in the world — like Europe — where the population of Turks is high but there is strong likelihood of low voter participation, since these places donand’t have the same and”election atmosphereand” that Turkey has right now. Another important problem facing voters abroad is the distance to where the ballot boxes have been set up. Some voters in Australia have to undertake a three-hour plane ride, while some voters in Germany have to drive a few hours to reach their assigned ballot boxes none of these are attractive options for potential voters.
In the end, one thing is certain: Votes from abroad are going to have an important influence on the general composition of Parliament, whether or not the HDP makes it over the barrier. Since votes are distributed throughout the provinces, they will influence the distribution of deputies. In many places in Turkey, votes cast from abroad might actually shift seats in Parliament from one party to another. There are nearly 100 electoral regions in Turkey. Any extraordinary shift in the votes coming in from abroad for one political party versus another might well have a sizeable effect on the makeup of Parliament. It is with this coming June 7 election that we will be able to measure the true dimensions of this effect for the first time.
As the role played by votes from abroad increases in importance, so does the importance that voting abroad happens in a fair and just manner. Though Turkey has long-standing and quite deep traditions when it comes to electing officials, the last two years have seen debates over and”ballot box securityand” at the center of the national agenda. Nowadays we even have civil society organizations formed for the sole purpose of making sure ballot boxes are secure and for overseeing vote counts. But there is little doubt that part of what has increased the importance attributed to ballot box security in recent years is the role played by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) itself. After all, it would be naive to expect a party involved in shelving the legal system, blocking investigations into corruption and firing prosecutors and judges involved in court decisions that did not please it to suddenly respect the will of the people in an election. This is why people are so invested now in making sure the ballot boxes are secure, even abroad.
Independent organizations have also become crucial when it comes to ensuring the integrity of ballot boxes and the voting process. The Constitutional Court, the YSK and courts in general have always stood as strong guarantors of fair and just elections. But with the aent of the AKP, people have lost trust in regular courts. A quick glance at the behavior of the president during this latest election campaign period, as well as his daily lambasting of the opposition parties, is enough to see how much the influence of the justice system has been eroded when it comes to elections. This crisis of trust in the countryand’s institutions is, if anything, even stronger abroad.
In the meantime, ballot boxes abroad waiting for Turkish votes have been and”openand” now for three weeks. This is a generous amount of time during which any manipulation could take place it is also a period of time that makes true supervision over the process almost impossible. Just as political parties are unable to assign members to oversee the ballot boxes for three whole weeks, it is impossible to say whether the contents of ballot boxes opened to use in the morning is the same as what they were the evening before, when they were sealed. And when one thinks about how these ballot boxes are then transported by Turkish Airlines, which itself works like a political party now, one sees that any talk of ballot box security is fairly absurd. All the best intentions in the world on the part of the YSK are of little importance in the shadow of these larger problems.
The only real solution at hand is to see that voting abroad occurs on the same day as voting in Turkey, and that as such, ballot boxes are opened on the morning of the elections, and closed again that evening. This is a system that the French have used for years it is one we could implement as well. In the end, it is evident that the only real solution in terms of maintaining integrity for our ballot boxes abroad is to somehow ensure that we create an and”election day atmosphereand” abroad, especially in Europe, where so many Turks reside.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman