(Washington, D.C.) — International policymakers and influentials must challenge Erdogan’s unlevel electoral playing field on Sunday when Turkey goes to the polls to vote in its critical presidential runoff. The odds are once again stacked against a democratic outcome, but the international community nevertheless has a role to play in fighting for one. This includes: consistent and accurate reporting on Erdogan’s authoritarian advantage, strict monitoring to prevent election rigging, and resistance from social media companies when and if the Turkish government attempts to silence its citizens.
Ambassador Mark Wallace, CEO of the Turkish Democracy Project, said:
“Now is not the time for Turkey’s democratic allies to fall asleep at the wheel—support for Turkish democracy on Sunday will require constant vigilance not only from international election monitors but from the international community at large. Every instance of censorship, voter intimidation, fraud, or irregularity must be recorded, broadcast, and challenged so that Erdogan can be held to account.”
There are several pitfalls facing a democratic outcome in this week’s run-off. The Supreme Election Council (YSK) is already stacked with judges who are loyal to Erdogan. Furthermore, while the ballot boxes in Turkey are monitored by the opposition, the YSK’s counting process is not—in fact it is facilitated by a Turkish Armed Forces-owned cybersecurity firm. Finally, there is no appeals process for the YSK’s decisions. Finally, Twitter complied with the Turkish government’s request to block several accounts leading up to the May 14 election round. This is in addition to the fact that Erdogan enjoys complete control of Turkey’s media and judiciary.
Additionally, the first round of elections already saw several irregularities. Even before the elections took place, the YSK had ruled that Erdogan could run, despite the fact that his candidacy is unconstitutional. It also allowed him to delay setting a date for the election so that the opposition could be less prepared. During the count, AKP officials challenged thousands of ballots that the opposition had won in order to slow down its gains throughout the night. It is still unclear when, if, and how those votes were tallied.