EU refuses to congratulate Erdogan, says conditions for elections ‘not equal’

"The voters had a genuine choice, but the conditions for campaigning were not equal,” a joint EU statement on Monday said.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The European Union has refused to congratulate Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his elections victory, instead stating the conditions for the polls were “not equal.”

A Monday statement issued by the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, and European Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn, did not name Erdogan or refer to his election win.

Erdogan emerged victorious in Sunday’s twin presidential and parliamentary elections taking home 52.5 percent of the votes in the presidential race, with over 99 percent of ballots counted.

His Justice and Development Party (AKP), meanwhile, received 42.5 percent of the popular vote in the parliamentary election, and it was empowered by its nationalist allies who gained 11.1 percent.

The joint statement by Mogherini and Hahn reiterated an assessment made by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and its Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) who said the conditions for certain candidates during the election campaigns were unequal.

Indeed, pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtas, who has been in jail for over 20 months, was forced to campaign behind bars.

“As the election observation mission by the OSCE/ODIHR assesses, the voters had a genuine choice, but the conditions for campaigning were not equal,” the joint EU statement said.

“In addition, the restrictive legal framework and powers granted under the ongoing state of emergency restricted the freedoms of assembly and expression, including in the media,” it added.

Relations between Turkey and the EU have deteriorated in recent years amid Ankara’s push to join the EU.

The EU has on many occasions criticized Turkey, and Erdogan, for a massive crackdown on dozens of thousands of people following a failed military coup attempt in July 2016.

Turkey “would benefit from urgently addressing key shortcomings regarding the rule of law and fundamental rights,” the EU officials said, warning the new presidential system has “far-reaching implications for Turkish democracy.”

Erdogan will now have more executive powers including the authority to appoint cabinet ministers and remove the office of the prime minister, extending his grip on Turkey until at least 2023.