Ankara, Nov 1 () - Only five months since the last general election failed to produce a single-party government, Turkish voters return to polling stations on Nov. 1, with slim prospects of a substantial difference raising the stakes for all parties.
The Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) have assigned 500,000 party members each to guard polling stations, but the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) says some of its members tasked with observing the polling stations in critical provinces have been detained in recent weeks.
“In some provinces of the east and the southeast, the ability to campaign freely has been considerably restricted by the deteriorating security situation, with Special Security Zones declared and/or curfews imposed,” stated an interim report by an observation mission deployed by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
“These measures have been criticized by some OSCE/ODIHR LEOM interlocutors as politically motivated and beyond the legal framework,” said the report dated Oct. 23 and released by a Limited Election Observation Mission (LEOM) deployed by the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).
In mid-October, two polling stations in the southeastern province of Şırnak were moved, despite a decision by the Supreme Election Board (YSK) rejecting the relocation, for “security” reasons.
“On June 7, we made progress with extra sensitivity of citizens,” said CHP Deputy Chair Bülent Tezcan, referring to an improvement in the vigilance of Turkish voters about potential electoral fraud. “The same sensitivity needs to be displayed now.”
An intricate “election calculus simulator” similar to the one used by the YSK has been set up at the CHP headquarters, Tezcan also added.
MHP Deputy Chair Oktay Öztürk said they had trained and tasked 500,000 party members to guard election security.
In addition to security concerns, all parties’ vigilance stems from the fact that even a slight 0.1 to 3 percent swing in votes in 39 constituencies across the country would play a decisive role in whether results yield a single-party victory.
Founded in August 2001, the AKP won three consecutive parliamentary elections in 2002, 2007 and 2011 and was able to form a single-party government after each election.
However, in the June 7, 2015 election, the AKP dropped to fewer than 276 seats in parliament, the number needed for a legislative majority. It had aimed for the 330 seats needed in order to change the constitution without input from other parties and thus pave the way for a new presidential system equipped with more power and fewer checks and balances.
After failing to secure a coalition, AKP leader and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu formed an interim cabinet ahead of the November re-run.
In the run-up to the June 7 election, Erdoğan held a series of large public rallies during which he made little secret of his preference for single-party rule by the AKP, despite constitutional clauses that require the president to be impartial. Many believe that he wanted another election to enable the AKP to win at least a parliamentary majority so he can continue to rule as a de facto executive president.
The June 7 election was the first election that the AKP entered without Erdoğan’s leadership, instead led by Prime Minister Davutoğlu, who was elected as party leader in August 2014 after Erdoğan became president in a popular vote. At this year’s party congress, Davutoğlu was reelected as party leader.
Erdoğan’s rhetoric favoring a single-party government’s rule for “stability” has been consistent over the last five months. His near-omnipresence in the media has also been a continuation of the situation before June 7, and has been fiercely criticized by the opposition parties.