Int'l observers: Election marked by polarizing discriminatory and inflammatory rhetoric
The second round of the presidential election in Turkey was characterized by "increasingly inflammatory and discriminatory language" used during the campaign period, media bias and restrictions to freedom of expression that created an "unlevel playing field" and "unjustified advantage of the incumbent," international observers said in a statement on Monday.
The joint mission from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA), and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) stressed that "while candidates were able to campaign freely, supporters of some opposition parties continued to face intimidation and harassment. Inflammatory and discriminatory language was used on both sides, with mutual accusations of collaboration with terrorist organizations."
Farah Karimi, Special Co-ordinator and leader of the short-term OSCE observer mission said:
"Concerns raised during the first round over the lack of a level playing field and the unfairness of the campaign remained unaddressed, with the incumbent president continuing to benefit from an unjustified advantage (...) Regretfully, the use of harsher rhetoric by both contesting sides that was discriminatory and inflammatory further polarized the political environment. Voters came out in great numbers yesterday, and it is crucial that the winner makes genuine efforts to ensure the unity of the people of Turkiye."
The mission noted that "instances of campaigning while performing official duties continued ahead of the second round," and "together with the ongoing use of public resources for campaign purposes, this provided an undue advantage to the incumbent that was also noted in the first-round campaign."
Frank Schwabe (Germany, SOC), head of the PACE delegation, said:
"The second round of the presidential elections has resulted in a clear winner. Nevertheless, this second round also took place in an environment that in many ways does not provide the conditions for holding democratic elections (...) Turkiye must now implement the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights and, above all, release Osman Kavala and Selahattin Demirtas. In the future, the Supreme Electoral Council must be committed to the greatest possible transparency in order to strengthen trust in the electoral process."
Election day was largely peaceful, but there were isolated instances of violence that were mostly directed against opposition supporters, and observers also noted cases of group or family voting, while the secrecy of the vote was potentially compromised due to the layout of some polling stations, the mission also observed, adding:
"Trials and arrests of journalists and bloggers continued ahead of the run-off, further restricting freedom of expression. At the same time, observers noted that many broadcasters did not meet a legal obligation to provide impartial coverage of the campaign and equal opportunities for the two presidential candidates, with the public broadcaster significantly favoring the incumbent and a similar bias noted in numerous private media outlets."
Ambassador Jan Petersen, head of the ODIHR election observation mission, said:
"It’s true and positive that voters had a real choice between political alternatives on election day. But voters were left underinformed by the lack of transparency on the part of the election administration, and the lack of balanced media coverage was concerning. In contributing to the unlevel playing field overall, this was certainly among the greatest shortcomings of this election.”
The international election observation to the second round of the presidential election in Turkey totals 232 observers from 31 countries.