Kox: Turkish governing party denies pressuring voters amongst Netherlands-based Turks

31 October 2015

Kox: Turkish governing party denies pressuring voters amongst Netherlands-based Turks

Thousands of Turkish citizens resident in the Netherlands have been sent a letter allegedly by Turkish Prime Minister Ahmed Davutoglu calling on them to vote for the ruling AK Party. Many are asking how their names and addresses have been acquired. On a proposal from Sadet Karabulut. Parliament unanimously condemned this canvassing action. In addition, the Dutch government has described the Turkish interference as completely inappropriate. In Turkey itself the country’s government’s action has been discussed by the international observers monitoring Sunday’s elections, reports SP Senator Kox, who is there as part of the Council of Europe’s team of observers.

'I had to present the matter to the representative of the AK Party on the Ankara Electoral Council,’ says Kox. ‘Yildiz Serefinoglu knew about the letter but said that it of course wasn’t true that it came from Prime Minister Davutoglu. He thought that the canvassing action was an initiative of enthusiastic and overzealous Turkish organisations in western Europe. Similar letters had been sent elsewhere, including in Switzerland and Belgium. Campaigning by Turkish political parties abroad is forbidden by law, but individual initiatives aren’t. The AK Party sees no reason to protest against the use of the prime minister’s name and signature. ”

After all, the action works to our advantage,” said the party’s representative during a meeting with the international election observers. President Erdogan also said that the western protests against the sending of the letters made no sense. That’s very convenient. Moreover the biggest opposition party, the CHP, says that the action was probably an initiative of TIKA, a large organisation which directs its activities towards Turks living abroad, and which has the government behind it. The governing party’s controversial canvassing action will be taken into account when the international observers judge the extent to which the elections have been free and fair.’

A great deal of attention has also been paid by the international observers to the enormous amount of political violence occurring in the election period, most of it directed at the left Kurdish HDP. Senator Kox visited the party’s headquarters in Ankara, which was subject to an arson attack in September. 'The fire was caused by someone who forced his way in while the police were standing at the door of the office. The arsonist also took several laptops. It was all captured on video, but two days later the perpetrator was cleared. So it’s understandable that the HDP has no longer any faith in the Turkish system of justice. In the last few months hundreds of HDP offices have been attacked and to date not a single person has been convicted.’

The election campaign is increasingly focused on a struggle between the governing AK Party and the HDP. 'Big gains for the left pro-Kurdish party cost the party of President Erdogan and Prime Minister Davutoglu its majority in parliament,’ Kox explains. ‘Now the HDP seems set to make further gains and Erdogan can probably forget any idea of a renewed majority. This has made the existing relations more acute.’

In the last few days Senator Kox has visited both the HDP and the social democratic CHP. He also took part, along with other observers, in meetings with the AK Party and with domestic observers. The parliamentary elections will be held on Sunday.

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