March 13, 2018
ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey’s parliament passed a law revamping electoral regulations on Tuesday, backing controversial legislation the opposition has said could open the door to fraud and jeopardize the fairness of 2019 polls.
After parliament’s Deputy Speaker Aysenur Bahcekapili announced the voting result, a brawl erupted between nationalist lawmakers and those from the main opposition. Several parliamentarians traded punches and shoved and chased each other in the chamber.
The legislation formally allows for the creation of electoral alliances, paving the way for a tie-up between President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party and their nationalist allies. It was widely expected to pass, given the combined support of the AKP and the nationalist MHP.
But government critics have sounded alarm over the law.
It grants the High Electoral Board the authority to merge electoral districts and move ballot boxes to other districts. Ballots will be admissible without the stamp of the local electoral board, formalizing a decision made during a referendum last year that caused a widespread outcry among government critics and concern from election monitors.
Under the law, security force members will be allowed into polling stations when invited by a voter, a measure the government says will stamp out intimidation by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the mainly Kurdish southeast.
Opposition lawmakers, including from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), have said the presence of security forces at polling stations could be used to make vote counting less transparent.
The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party has said the measures could lead to ballot boxes being moved out of districts where it has strong support.
(Reporting by Gulsen Solaker and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by David Dolan)