Kurds Criticizes Turkey’s Plan to Move Ballot Boxes

31 May, 2018

Turkey has announced plans to move voting stations in some areas with a high Kurdish population.

The government says the move is designed to stop threats against Kurdish voters. But the main pro-Kurdish party say the plan is aimed at keeping its members out of parliament in elections later this month.

Turkey's High Election Board announced the plan earlier this week. The board did not say how many ballot boxes would be moved. But it noted that 144,000 voters lived in the affected areas.

The pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party, the HDP, said the voting stations were being moved from villages where the party has strong support. The party said they are to be set up in nearby villages that support the AK Party of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

It added that the move was designed to keep the HDP below a 10 percent threshold of votes needed to enter parliament.

The move was made possible by legislation that passed in parliament two months ago. The law gave the election board's members permission to combine electoral areas and move ballot boxes to other areas.

The government said the law was changed because of concerns that the Kurdistan Workers Party, the PKK, could threaten voters in the mainly Kurdish southeast to vote for the HDP.

The PKK is banned in Turkey. The group launched an armed campaign against the government in 1984.

FILE - A man casts his ballot at a polling station during a referendum in Ankara, Turkey, April 16, 2017. REUTERS/Umit Bektas
FILE - A man casts his ballot at a polling station during a referendum in Ankara, Turkey, April 16, 2017. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

The board's chairman, Sadi Guven, reportedly said, "Security is important but going to the polls with free will is also very important." The state-operated Anadolu news agency reported his comments.

Under the electoral law, Turkish officials will accept ballots that are not marked by the local electoral board. It also gives security force members permission to enter a polling station when invited by a voter.

Opposition parties say the changes will make the vote counting less open.

"We see that the decision (to move the ballot boxes) was made for villages where the HDP gets a large share of the votes," HDP spokesman Ayhan Bilgen said.

The government accuses the HDP of being a political extension of the PKK and says its support rises when voters are threatened. The HDP denies this.

The United States considers the PKK a terrorist group.

The elections are set for Sunday, June 24.

Opinion studies have shown that the HDP is likely to win about 10 percent of the vote. They also show the total opposition share at around 50 percent - making it a close race to get control of parliament.

If the HDP fails to reach the threshold, its votes could be split between other parties. That probably would raise AK Party's numbers and likely guarantee it a majority.

The Reuters news service reported this story. George Grow adapted the report for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.


Words in This Story

boardn. a group of people with power to supervise or direct something

threshold – n. the point at which an effect is produced; the point at which something begins to change

poll – n. an election or activity in which people are asked a question or series of questions; the record of votes that were made in an election

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