Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

The Embassy

Recep Tayyip Erdogan: Cheating His Way To Reelection in Turkey?

He consider elections valid only if he wins, and will do everything necessary to remain in power if he loses. The only question now is what the Turkish people will do.

Erdogan. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Today Turks will flock to the polls, joining hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of expatriates who have already cast their ballots. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has dominated Turkish politics for two decades, seeks another five years in office. Seventy-four year-old Kemal Kilicdaroglu, a fixture of opposition politics for over a decade who today leads a coalition of six opposition parties, seeks to unseat Erdogan.

Most polls say he will succeed.

Erdogan, however, shows no inclination to accept defeat. At his final campaign event, he told thousands of figures at the Hagia Sophia, a former church-turned-mosque-turned-museum he converted back into a mosque, he declared he took orders from God. This harkens back to his time as mayor of Istanbul, when he declared himself the city’s imam and described himself as a “servant of sharia [Islamic law].”

Erdogan has reason to be arrogant. While many Western journalists and think tank commentators treat Turkey’s democracy as authentic by giving the regime benefit of the doubt in Sunday’s elections, Erdogan seeks to head off any chance of defeat. Consider how he has already tried to fix the results.

-The Supreme Election Board has installed over 100 new polling stations in more than 40 countries, including those with very few Turkish citizens. Consulate workers are all government-appointed. They fill official bags with the votes cast and send them to Turkey to be counted. In a close election, massaging the numbers of overseas votes could make the difference.

-There is also a double standard on ballot validity that makes the 2000 George W. Bush-Al Gore “hanging chad” controversies seem quaint. In Turkey, ballots with extraneous marks are invalid. Some of the cheating has already been apparent on overseas voting. On ballots cast abroad, there is often a small dot on the circle for Erdogan. If the “Yes” stamp marks the Erdogan circle, the dot disappears under the deal but, if the voter chooses Kilicdaroglu, the mark on Erdogan’s circle invalidates the vote.

-Erdogan seeks maximum advantage from the Syrian civil war. While he extorts Europe by threatening to release floods of refugees, he has handed out Turkish passports to Sunni Arabs refugees whom he has settled in traditionally Kurdish and Alevi areas inside Turkey. Officially, their number is around 600,000 but Turks estimate the true number may be closer to three million. Most if not all of these votes will belong to Erdogan.

-When Turks vote, they receive two ballots. One for parliament that is more than three feet long, and the short sheet listing the four presidential candidates, one of whom has already dropped out. There are numerous reports that election workers—again appointed by the Erdogan government—only furnish the parliamentary ballot to those they know or suspect are in the opposition camp. If that person then requests the second ballot, the poll worker accuses them of seeking to vote twice.

-There has also been a change in vote counting. Previously, election officials counted ballots both before and after voting to ensure the number of votes cast and remaining empty ballots matched the total number of ballots at the start. Election officials appointed by Erdogan no longer follow this procedure. Likewise, they no longer honor the failsafe used in previous elections in which the number of ballots printed at the central printing shop in Ankara and the numbers of these sent to each polling station were publicized.

-Party representatives and observers will be present when polling station boxes are opened and counted. The ballots are then bagged and sent to the district collection center. Often, when these bags are opened and recounted, there are significant discrepancies with the vote observers witnessed.

Simply put, it seems the fix is in. There appears to be enough cheating to throw the election. While common sense and rule-of-law trumped efforts to invalidate elections in the United States and Brazil, Turkey is different because of paramilitaries like SADAT, as well as police who answer only to Erdogan and who will follow his orders blindly, no matter how illegal. If opposition voters pour into the streets to celebrate Erdogan’s defeat, groups like SADAT will shoot at them, just as they did in the supposed 2016 coup. Erdogan is no democrat.

He considers elections valid only if he wins, and will do everything necessary to remain in power if he loses. The only question now is what the Turkish people will do.

Now a 1945 Contributing Editor, Dr. Michael Rubin is a Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Dr. Rubin is the author, coauthor, and coeditor of several books exploring diplomacy, Iranian history, Arab culture, Kurdish studies, and Shi’ite politics, including “Seven Pillars: What Really Causes Instability in the Middle East?” (AEI Press, 2019); “Kurdistan Rising” (AEI Press, 2016); “Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes” (Encounter Books, 2014); and “Eternal Iran: Continuity and Chaos” (Palgrave, 2005).

Written By

Now a 1945 Contributing Editor, Dr. Michael Rubin is a Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Dr. Rubin is the author, coauthor, and coeditor of several books exploring diplomacy, Iranian history, Arab culture, Kurdish studies, and Shi’ite politics, including “Seven Pillars: What Really Causes Instability in the Middle East?” (AEI Press, 2019); “Kurdistan Rising” (AEI Press, 2016); “Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes” (Encounter Books, 2014); and “Eternal Iran: Continuity and Chaos” (Palgrave, 2005).

Advertisement