Complaints about the fairness of the vote are increasing as Turkey prepares for presidential and parliamentary elections this weekend, which are expected to be the strongest challenge to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in his 20 years in office.
The opposition in Turkey has long claimed that the country’s elections are held on an uneven playing field, and these claims are frequently supported by outside observers.
The most obvious area in which Erdogan has an advantage over his rivals is in the media, but other elements like the use of public funds for campaigning and the dubious application of electoral law also come into play.
According to Reporters Without Borders, the government or groups supporting the government control about 90% of Turkey’s media, giving the president a disproportionate amount of airtime. The majority of opposition newspapers have switched to online-only editions, leaving only a small number in print.
According to opposition members of the broadcasting watchdog, Erdogan received nearly 33 hours of airtime on the primary state-run TV station in April. Kemal Kilicdaroglu, his rival for the presidency, got 32 minutes.
The Republican People’s Party, or CHP, the main opposition group, filed a lawsuit against broadcaster TRT last month for failing to air its campaign ad.
Meanwhile, the election board has previously come under fire for supporting AKP protests during elections.
Following AKP complaints of ballot irregularities, the winning opposition candidate for Istanbul mayor in the 2019 local elections was forced to participate in a rerun. Results of district and city council votes, which favored the AKP and were tallied in the same boxes, were uncontested.
Voters had lost faith in the electoral authorities, according to Adem Sozuer of Istanbul University’s law school, who spoke to the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper. “There is widespread suspicion that elections will be rigged in a sizable portion of society,” he said.