EU, OSCE criticise Turkey election campaign conditions
ANKARA - The European Union took aim on Monday at the Turkish election that swept President Recep Tayyip Erdogan back to power, refusing to congratulate him and saying campaign conditions had not been equal.
A statement issued by the EU's diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini and enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn did not mention the Turkish strongman by name or refer to his victory in Sunday's poll, which saw him return to office with expanded powers.
Instead the EU, whose relations with Ankara have veered between crisis and grudging cooperation in recent years, echoed the assessment of international observers from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
"As the election observation mission by OSCE/ODIHR assesses, the voters had a genuine choice, but the conditions for campaigning were not equal," the joint statement said, referring to the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.
"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."
The EU has been critical of the massive crackdown launched by Erdogan in the wake of a failed coup against him in 2016 which has seen tens of thousands of people arrested under a state of emergency.
In their statement, Mogherini and Hahn said Turkey "would benefit from urgently addressing key shortcomings regarding the rule of law and fundamental rights" and warned the new presidential system has "far reaching implications for Turkish democracy."
The new system gives Erdogan the authority to appoint cabinet ministers and dispenses with the office of prime minister.
Opponents fear it will give him autocratic powers and could keep him in office for another decade.
Turkey has been in negotiations to join the EU since 2005 but the process is effectively frozen and Erdogan has drifted closer to Russia and Iran, despite being a NATO member.
International observers, including the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions, also criticised the lack of "equal" conditions in Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections.
"Voters had a genuine choice despite the lack of conditions for contestants to compete on an equal basis," the joint mission of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) said.
The mission found polling day procedures were "generally followed," but pointed to issues over counting and tabulation during which "legally prescribed steps were often omitted."
The OSCE said in a statement that in 10% of its observations, ballot box committees did not stamp the ballots.
The observers referred to Erdogan and the AKP's "notable advantage," which they said was reflected in "excessive" coverage by state and private media.
The elections took place under a state of emergency in place since the 2016 attempted coup against Erdogan, which the OSCE said "limited" freedomsof expression and assembly.
(The Arab Weekly staff and news agencies)