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This is why Turkish elections can’t be rigged

As the election day in Türkiye draws near, civil servants, political parties and independent observers are gearing up to take their posts at the election centres across the country to ensure the integrity and fairness of the vote.

Contrary to the doubts that some international news organisations have raised in recent days, the process to cast the vote and subsequent counting has been designed in a way to minimise chances of rigging.

More than 60 million people are eligible to vote in the May 14 presidential and parliamentary elections that will be conducted in 81 provinces under the full media glare. The exercise involves keeping track of 191,000 ballot boxes. And there will be plenty of eyes on them.

Diaspora voting

Around 6.5 million Turks live in other countries. Among them, 3.28 million are eligible to cast their votes in the upcoming presidential and parliamentary election.

Compared to the 60.9 million registered voters within Türkiye, the diaspora vote might appear to be minuscule, and the state takes every necessary steps to ensure security of ballot boxes at custom gates and in countries Turkish expats casting their votes.

Following the completion of voting, sealed bags are sent to Türkiye accompanied by representatives of political parties contesting in the elections, and locked in a room until voting ends in Türkiye and counting starts.

A majority of the Turkish diaspora lives in Western Europe, where migrant workers settled in the 1960s as part of the post-World War II reconstruction programme. They make up the single-largest Muslim immigrant group in Western Europe.

With over 1.5 million registered diaspora voters, Germany tops the list of countries where Turkish politics will play out at a fever pitch, followed by France, the Netherlands and Belgium.

Conducting elections

Türkiye’s Supreme Election Council (YSK) has put in place a system which ensures the integrity of the vote starting from the polling booths.

At every polling station, a five-member board, which includes representatives of the YSK and dominant political parties, has been deputed. The board cross-checks the identification of the voters and if their names are included in the electoral list. This eliminates the chances of one person casting a vote twice. It also helps build consensus between the parties on the result.

Political parties including the AK Party and the opposition CHP, which is part of the six-party Nation Alliance, will send out tens of thousands of observers to polling stations.

Elections in quake-hit provinces

YSK has also made special arrangements to facilitate voters in the 11 provinces hit by the deadly February 6th earthquakes. Around 300,000 people, who are eligible to vote, and have moved to other cities after the disaster have registered in a special system to cast their ballot without needing to travel back to their hometowns.

Over the past few weeks, several delegations of the YSK have visited the quake-hit region to take stock of the situation and access what is needed to conduct the elections.

Thousands of observers will follow elections

Ahead of the election, the parties recruit thousands of volunteers especially for this purpose. These representatives have the permission to accompany the ballot boxes.

Besides the party representatives and YSK officials, non-government organisations have their own volunteers to monitor the voting. One NGO, Vote and Beyond, says it has assigned around 100, 000 people to collect voting results.

As the counting starts, volunteers of the political parties are present at the polling stations to oversee it. They can tally the votes, take pictures and pass on the information to party higher-ups.

What makes the electoral process even more transparent is the presence of independent observers including a 40-member team of the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) who have come on the invitation of the government.

The independence of the Supreme Election Board became obvious early this month when it refused the government's request for ballot box location data ahead of the elections. The opposition was not in favour of YSK sharing the location of the booths with the interior ministry at such a crucial juncture.

This just goes on to show that election authorities are working independently of politics and government influence.

To avoid any confusion, only the official state-run Anadolu Agency is authorised to release election results.