Observers of Turkey’s local elections from the Council of Europe have criticized the Turkish government, saying they are not fully convinced that Turkey currently has the free and fair electoral environment necessary for genuinely democratic elections in line with European values and principles.
Andrew Dawson, head of the observer delegation, held a press conference in Ankara on Monday informing the Turkish press that the Council of Europe’s monitoring mission included 22 observers from 20 European countries. Dawson said the delegation was divided into 10 teams and that these teams were deployed throughout Turkey. The delegation reportedly witnessed voting taking place at some 140 polling stations.
“It needs an atmosphere where media freedom is absolutely ensured. Where journalists can carry out their reporting and commentary without running the risk of being fired for making regime-critical reports or perhaps ending up in prison just for expressing their legal and legitimate views,” he said.
“There should be equal access for all parties running in elections to the media. Voters need to be able to get a balanced picture of the contestants’ programs and objectives. An equal playing field for all is an absolute prerequisite for an election campaign to be called fair and free,” said Dawson.
According to Dawson Turkey needs a fair and reasonable legal framework overseen by a robust judiciary, one that is willing to uphold the rule of law without fear or favor.
Dawson also called on Turkish authorities to take the March 31 local elections as an opportunity to change course and added, “The local representatives elected yesterday must be able to exercise their mandate freely and in accordance with the European Charter of Local Self-Government of the Congress of the Council of Europe, to which Turkey is a party.”