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Congress observation of the mayoral election in Istanbul: a well-organised and transparent vote, under tense circumstances

Elections Istanbul, Turkey 24 June 2019
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Andrew DAWSON (left), Congress Rapporteur and Head of the delegation, and Jean-Philippe BOZOULS, Congress Director

Andrew DAWSON (left), Congress Rapporteur and Head of the delegation, and Jean-Philippe BOZOULS, Congress Director

A delegation from the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, led by Andrew DAWSON (United Kingdom, CRE), Rapporteur and Head of the delegation, observed the re-run of the mayoral election in Istanbul on 23 June 2019. At the invitation of the Turkish authorities, 14 observers from 13 different European countries visited some 90 Ballot Box Committees in about 30 districts of Istanbul.

"The Congress teams had credentials provided by the Supreme Electoral Council of Turkey and were largely welcome to observe the voting procedures, although in a few isolated cases they faced aggressive attitudes towards them," said the Head of the delegation at a press conference today in Istanbul.

"Today, we can say that in the vast majority of the polling stations we visited, the members of the Ballot Box Committees performed their duties competently and in compliance with the applicable rules," he added, welcoming the organisational effort with more than 60,000 Bashkans and Vice-Chairs of Ballot Box Committees, and nearly 125,000 people trained in electoral procedures. "Technically speaking, overall, the voting was conducted in an orderly manner for the majority of the 10.5 million voters," he added, noting that several thousand lawyers were reportedly deployed by political parties to provide immediate legal advice.

"Democratic elections are not limited to counting votes. They imply respect for the will of the people and the intention of the individual voter, ensuring that all candidates have the same fair and equal opportunities," Mr. DAWSON recalled. "Above all, it means respect for the Council of Europe's fundamental values: democracy, the rule of law and legal security, as well as human rights, freedom of expression and freedom of the media," he stressed.

Reverting to the decision of the Supreme Electoral Council taken on 6 May to annul the election of the Mayor of Istanbul, Mr DAWSON recalled the need for an independent judiciary free from political interference. "Ultimately, the Supreme Electoral Council still owes us - and perhaps even more importantly, owes the Turkish people - an answer to the central question: to what extent did the alleged procedural irregularity of not having civil servants as Chairpersons and deputies in the 754 Ballot Box Committees affect the outcome of the March 31 elections," he said. The Congress could ask Council of Europe lawyers, experts from the Venice Commission, to examine this issue in greater depth and prepare a legal opinion on the constitutionality of the cancellation of the 31 March 2019 elections in Istanbul.

"Electoral rules must be fair and applied consistently before and after the elections," he said. "Candidates accepted as eligible before the Election Day shall have the opportunity to take office if they win the election and to freely exercise their mandate in accordance with the European Charter of Local Self-Government which binds the 47 member states of the Council of Europe, including Turkey. »

"Yesterday, the citizens of Istanbul elected a new mayor in a well-organised and transparent vote, albeit under tense circumstances. The result is very clear.  We hope that the freely expressed will of the voters will be respected.  The ballot box, not the court, is the best place to decide on elections.  Polling stations must be full of voters.  It should not be necessary to fill them with lawyers," M. DAWSON concluded.

The conclusions of the Congress observation mission will be discussed at the meeting of the Congress Bureau on 28 June in Brussels and at the meeting of the Congress Monitoring Committee on 3 July in Oslo.  A full report on the entire local election observation mission in Turkey, including the repeat election in Istanbul, will be presented at the Congress plenary session to be held from 29 to 31 October 2019 in Strasbourg.

Photos - Flickr

Re-run of the mayoral election in Istanbul

Contact :
Renate Zikmund
Congress of Local and Regional Authorities
Acting Head of Service, Department of Statutory Activities,
Division of Local and Regional Election Observation
renate.zikmund@coe.int – 00 33 (0)6 59 78 64 55

The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities observed the local elections held in Turkey on 31 March, deploying 22 observers from 20 European countries in about 140 polling stations across Turkey, including Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir, Antalya, Adana, Erzurum and Diyarbakir. Following the decision of the Turkish Supreme Election Council, the Congress issued several statements calling on the Turkish authorities to guarantee the electoral process in view of the repeat election in Istanbul.