Turkey lags behind Zimbabwe and Pakistan in election vulnerability index

Turkey lags behind Zimbabwe and Pakistan in election vulnerability index
A+ A-
Turkey's May 14 presidential and parliamentary elections have been identified as among the most vulnerable in the world by Freedom House, an independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy

Turkey has a score of 33 out of 100 in the Election Vulnerability Index (EVI), trailing behind Zimbabwe and Pakistan. The EVI score is composed of three categories: digital sphere, electoral system and political participation, and human rights.

Turkey’s score of 9 out of 32 in the digital sphere category indicates government control over internet infrastructure, content blocking and filtering, online manipulation, legal penalties for online activities and hacking and cyberattacks.

The country scored 13 out of 32 in the electoral system and political participation category, which evaluates the fairness of elections, impartial implementation of electoral laws, political party organization, opposition opportunities and government transparency.

In the human rights category, Turkey scored 11 out of 36, indicating a lack of freedom of media, expression and assembly, NGO operation, independence of the judiciary, equal treatment of different population segments and protection from the illegitimate use of physical force.

Freedom House identified concentration of government power, strict laws that criminalize online expression and extralegal attempts to silence independent journalism and suppress dissent as the reasons for Turkey's low score. The report states that the country is rated “Not Free” in the Freedom in the World 2023 and Freedom on the Net 2022 reports.

The report is part of a new research initiative called Election Watch for the Digital Age, which aims to investigate the relationship between digital platforms and election integrity. The index is composed of key indicators related to a country’s political rights and internet freedom, derived from their annual Freedom in the World (FIW) and Freedom on the Net (FOTN) reports.

According to the report, thousands of websites are blocked in Turkey, and this censorship hinders voters’ ability to access accurate and diverse sources of information ahead of the vote. The report also highlights “information manipulation” as a significant concern, with the AKP-aligned public media outlets and government manipulation of social media content adversely impacting the online information landscape.

The report notes that the AKP has enlisted an “army of trolls” to manipulate online discussions and combat government critics on social media. Arrests and prosecutions of journalists, activists and ordinary people for criticizing or discussing government officials online are also pressing issues, according to Freedom House. The new “Law on Combating Disinformation,” which imposes criminal penalties on those who deliberately share content online deemed “fake,” could be used to prosecute internet users and facilitate the AKP’s efforts to silence dissent ahead of the elections.

According to the index, these issues raise concerns over Turkey’s election integrity and the ability of opposition parties to challenge the incumbent government effectively. The report calls on the Turkish government to ensure that the elections are conducted fairly, transparently and in accordance with international standards of freedom and democracy.