A six-member(*) cross-party delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) was in Ankara on 21 and 22 July 2014, at the invitation of the Turkish delegation to the PACE, for a pre-electoral visit ahead of the 10 August 2014 presidential election.
It met the three presidential candidates or their representatives:
- Ekmeleddin Ihsanoğlu, joint presidential candidate of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP);
- Yalcir Akdoğan, MP and Chief advisor of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, candidate of the Justice and Development party (AKP);
- Nazmi Gür, MP, representative of Selahattin Demirtaş, candidate of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).
The delegation also held an exchange of views with the Vice-President of the Grand National Assembly, the Turkish delegation to the PACE, the Chairman of the Supreme Board of Elections and the Radio Television Supreme Council, the Head of the OSCE/ODIHR election observation mission to Turkey, the Head of the EU delegation to Turkey, representatives of civil society and the media.
The delegation noted that the presidential election of 10 August 2014 will be a crucial moment for political life in Turkey: following the constitutional reform of 2007, 53 million Turks will, for the first time, directly elect the President of the Republic, conferring on him greater legitimacy. This will open a new political era in Turkey. The delegation welcomed the possibility for campaigning to be carried out in languages other than Turkish, including Kurdish.
The delegation was informed that the parliament adopted on 10 July 2014 a framework law enabling the continuation of the negotiations with a view to the resolution of the Kurdish issue.
The delegation welcomed the possibility offered for the first time to the nearly 3 million Turkish citizens residing abroad to vote outside of their country. It calls upon the authorities to ensure the smooth conduct of these elections carried out in 53 countries, and to provide the necessary guarantees to ensure that the ballot papers will be transported securely to Turkey for transparent counting.
The delegation welcomed the first steps taken to regulate the funding of the election campaign – including the limitation of individual donations. However, it would be necessary to reinforce the legislation by introducing a ceiling for campaign expenditures to enable a proper monitoring of the spending of the funds and to ensure same opportunities for all candidates. The legislation should be fine-tuned to clarify the role of political parties, the issue of in-kind contributions and personal resources of candidates, etc. The delegation highlighted the weaknesses of the current monitoring mechanism of election campaign accounts.
The delegation took note that the current Prime minister is one of the presidential candidates. It noted that the Prime minister is not required by the law to resign but also that the use of administrative resources is forbidden by law. It expressed its concerns, however, regarding the fact that this position gives him disproportionate access to resources and media coverage, in the absence of strict regulations. The issue of misuse of administrative resources was raised on several occasions during the meetings. The delegation therefore called upon the authorities to adopt clearer and stricter regulations related to the activities carried out by incumbent politicians standing for presidential elections.
The delegation recalled that all broadcasters, including the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT), are required to ensure an impartial and equal media coverage of the campaign, free from any self-censorship. The delegation regretted the lack of a timely response by the state institutions to redress unbalanced media coverage during the campaign despite the existing legal provisions. The delegation calls upon all stakeholders, in particular the Radio Television Supreme Council and the Supreme Board of Election, to be more efficient in applying the law and using the measures foreseen in the legislation and to ensure equal airtime to all candidates.
The delegation noted that there was in general a good level of trust in the conduct of the voting on election day. It reiterated, however, its concerns about the shortcomings in the regulations concerning the campaign expenditure, misuse of administrative resources by one candidate and unbalanced media coverage. The introduction of a clear legal provision accrediting domestic and international observers during future elections would further increase the transparency of and confidence in the election process as a whole. Observers should be able to freely observe all steps of the electoral process (voting, counting, drafting and tabulation of the minutes).
The pre-electoral delegation hopes that the elections will allow Turkish citizens to express themselves freely and to take an active part in the first direct election of their President.
A fully-fledged delegation of about 30 PACE observers will return to the country to observe the election of 10 August 2014.
(*) Members of the delegation:
Meritxell Mateu Pi (Andorra, ALDE), head of the delegation
Tadeusz Iwinski (Poland, SOC)
Marietta de Pourbaix-Lundin (Sweden, EPP/CD)
Ingebjørg Godskesen (Norway, EDG)
Andrej Hunko (Germany, UEL)
Josette Durrieu (France, SOC), PACE rapporteur for post-monitoring dialogue with Turkey