Turkish election board moves ballot boxes in Kurdish provinces, prompting fears of fraud

The headquarter of Turkey’s Supreme Election Board (YSK).

Citing “security reasons,” Turkey’s Supreme Election Board (YSK) decided on Sunday to move ballot boxes in at least 19 provinces from which the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) traditionally gets most of its votes, party officials said.

The move, which will affect hundreds of thousands of voters, mean that these citizens will have to travel elsewhere to cast their ballots instead of to their local polling stations on June 24. The YSK’s decision came following a request from a number of governor’s offices that cited security concerns in those regions where there are sometimes clashes between the Turkish military and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Van, Tunceli, Şırnak, Siirt, Mardin, Kars, Hakkari, Erzurum, Erzincan, Elazığ, Diyarbakır, Bitlis, Bingöl, Batman and Ağrı are among the provinces where ballot boxes will be moved or consolidated.

Since the HDP receives most of its votes from these provinces, HDP Mardin deputy Mithat Sancar and the HDP’s YSK representative Mehmet Tiryaki applied to the YSK on Saturday requesting cancellation of its decision to move the ballot boxes. Their request was rejected.

According to a statement from the YSK, 144,000 voters will be affected by the moving of ballot boxes. Opposition deputies who spoke to BBC’s Turkish service said the YSK’s move is likely to cast a shadow over the elections and deter thousands of voters from going to the polls. Sancar claimed that the regions where the ballot boxes will be moved were deliberately chosen among places where the HDP gets most of its votes after detailed work by the Interior Ministry.

“The votes in the to-be-moved ballot boxes are mostly our votes. The government did not do this randomly. I know this from a close source. They [the government] have the information about each and every village as to who votes for which party,” said Sancar.

According to Sancar, over 270,000 voters would be affected by the move requested by Ankara-appointed governors in the Kurdish region. Some 59 million people in Turkey and abroad will be voting in the elections.

The HDP works to pass the 10 percent electoral threshold, the highest in the world, to be able to deny the Erdoğan administration a total parliamentary victory. If it does not get 10 percent of vote nationally, it faces the possibility of staying out of parliament and losing all the seats it could win to other lists, mainly to Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP)-led right-wing alliance.

The YSK dismissed the HDP’s objections and agreed to the demands from authorities.

Changes in the election law passed in March by the AKP-dominated Parliament give power to the authorities to merge electoral districts, move ballot boxes to other locations and take mobile ballot boxes to the homes of those who are disabled or sick.

Sancar told Kurdistan24 that with the move, the elections’ legitimacy next month was under question and that the slightest change could determine the results.

“They say the distance voters will have to travel to vote is about five kilometers,” he said, adding that “the distance could discourage some voters from going to the polls due to transportation or difficult terrain. There is also concern that some people may feel intimidated to vote in some other way if they have to go to elsewhere. The government’s greed to change the results is why the [board] has decided to move the boxes,” he said.

HDP deputy Garo Paylan tweeted that the AKP wanted to leave his party under the threshold and thus get at least 80 more seats.

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