Widespread reporting of fraud marked the historic local elections in Turkey on Sunday, which have turned into a nationwide referendum on the government.
Thanks to vigilant observers, attempts at fraud were detected early in the day on Sunday while rumors of widespread fraud remained alive among social media users.
In the Tatvan district of eastern Bitlis province, a complaint was made by election observers on the grounds that ballot slips had been pre-sealed without the knowledge of the local election board.
When the chairman of the election board brought in completed ballots that had been sealed at home, other members of the board objected and issued an official complaint. The chairman said he had pre-sealed the ballots for practical purposes.
Although the Supreme Election Board (YSK) had announced that all measures to prevent fraud had been taken, this did not dispel concerns among voters in the elections in which 53 million people voted.
According to laws, punishment for electoral fraud is imprisonment. An official who served on the election board in Sinop province during the 2010 referendum and who cast votes in place of 32 people was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Despite an appeal, the Court of Appeals upheld the conviction on March 4 and dismissed the official from public service in addition to his sentence.
Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leader Cem Toker reported on Twitter that a member of his party had filed an official complaint in Üsküdar when a ballot official insisted that voters use a pen provided by him. There were rumors that ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) supporters were providing pens with erasable ink in order to amend the votes later on. A similar complaint was made by another Twitter user about a ballot box in Ankara's Keçiören district.
According to various social media users, over 500 cases of fraud were detected and official complaints were filed upon the objections of citizens. Dozens of people shared images of the official complaints online in an effort to prove attempts at fraud.
CHP files legal complaint over security of votes
Based on the reports of election fraud, the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) filed a legal complaint with the Ankara Public Prosecutor's Office. Party lawyers Can Tatar, Yasin Vural, Emre Acer and Ferhat Hotoğlu filed the complaint, asking officials to take the necessary precautions over rigging of the elections in certain places. The complaint was filed based on reports that the party had received from across Turkey.
The CHP had received reports claiming that people who would try to steal ballot slips and were using black vans in the districts of Elmadağ, Kazan, Şereflikoçhisar, Bala, Haymana, Nallıhan, Kalecik, Çamlıdere, Kızılcahamam, Beypazarı, Güdül and Çubuk in Ankara. Lawyers said that 20,000 votes may have been stolen.
Citizens volunteer as observers
A leftist union's website serving as an observer during election day reported instances of fraud across Turkey. According to sendika.org, there were several incidents of attempts to influence the election results.
The chairman of a ballot box in Adana reportedly made people sign empty sheets. In Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar Primary School in Bursa, an observer from the AK Party reportedly instructed people to vote for his party. In Bayramiç province in Çanakkale, the envelopes of the muhtar (neighborhood head) elections and the mayoral elections were mixed up and voting was aborted.
At İzmir Selma Yiğitalp High School, a member of the election council from the AK Party asked voters to fold their ballots so as to drop the ballot slips into the boxes on their behalf.
Also in İzmir, sealed ballot slips with votes for the AK Party were found in a car bearing the license plate number 35 AC 9019. The driver was detained and an investigation has been launched.
In the Çankaya Secondary School in the Mediterranean province of Mersin, 1,064 “yes” ballot slips for the AK Party were found and officials from the YSK were called in.
In Gaziantep, ballot slips with the AK Party seal without any envelopes were disregarded. It was also discovered that 65 voters in Ali Haydar Albayrak Primary School had not been given ballot slips for the mayoral elections.
Buses operated by the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality were seen transporting AK Party voters to the poll booths. The drivers told people that they were transporting officials and ballot boxes.