Turkey contests pre-election findings by security watchdog

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) released an interim report in the run-up to Turkish presidential and general polls.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) - Turkey's Foreign Ministry urged the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to "work in an unbiased and objective manner," in response to an interim report on the nation's upcoming presidential and general polls.

The 11-page report released on Friday by OSCE's Election Observation Mission to Turkey encompasses several aspects of the elections, including background, the political process leading to snap announcements by the incumbent President Tayyip Erdogan, his rivals, the electoral system and registration, party campaigns, and financing.

Some 59 million voters in the country, one where average voter turnout is among the highest in the world, are heading to the ballot box under an ongoing state of emergency in which security forces have been granted expanded and broad powers.

OSCE noted that the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) candidate Selahattin Demirtas was running from behind prison bars where authorities have kept him since late 2016 over charges of "terrorism" for previous speeches and rallies in which he took part.

Erdogan has referred numerous times to Demirtas as a terrorist and to the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) candidate Muharrem Ince as a supporter of terrorism, the report pointed out.

It also noted with concern that the Supreme Board of Elections had disqualified 13 HDP candidates for Parliament.

The HDP reported to observers a pervasive atmosphere of fear, attacks on their party, campaign offices, and stands, detentions of party activists, obstruction of campaign activities and being subject to selective application of campaign rules, according to the findings.

"The elections in our country are held in a pluralistic and competitive manner in line with democratic standards," a spokesperson for the Ankara government said, in response to the report by the conflict prevention group.

"However, it is seen that the interim report includes certain comments, even of political nature, that do not coincide with reality."

The statement, released on the Turkish Ministry's website, did not specify what in the OSCE report was in contravention of the facts.

"It is our expectation that all observer missions in our country carry out their functions accordingly."

Turkey is a participating state in the OSCE whose area of responsibility covers all of Europe, Russia, post-Soviet countries, and North America, since the organization's foundation in 1973.

Editing by John J. Catherine