Council of Europe to observe Turkish local elections

Council of Europe’s Congress of Local and Regional Authorities will arrive in Turkey to monitor the March 31 local elections in multiple provinces including Istanbul, capital Ankara, Aegean İzmir, and southeastern Diyarbakır upon the Turkish government’s invitation.

Duvar English

A delegation of the Council of Europe (CoE)’s Local and Regional Administrations Congress will monitor the Turkish local elections upon the government’s formal invitation. 

The delegation will include 20 local directors from 16 European countries, an election monitoring expert, and six technical personnel, according to reporting by Deutsche Welle Turkey. 

The monitoring mission will disperse to visit various election offices in 11 major provinces. These are Istanbul, the capital of Ankara, Aegean İzmir, southern Antalya, Adana, and Mersin, central Konya, southeastern Diyarbakır, Maraş, and Antep, and eastern Erzurum. 

The delegation will arrive in Turkey on March 29 and meet the Turkish representatives of the Congress. Some 18 mayors and municipal council members represent Turkey in the 306-member Congress. 

The observer delegation will later meet officials from the Supreme Election Council (YSK), and the Environment, Interior, and Justice Ministries. 

On March 30, the team is expected to meet Ankara mayor Mansur Yavaş and İstanbul mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu of the main opposition People’s Republican Party (CHP) along with local and international civil society organizations. 

The committee will share preliminary conclusions on April 1st in a press conference. The detailed election report will be published by June 2024.  

The Congress monitored the 2019 local elections, and found that they displayed Turkey’s democratic resilience, however was not fully convinced that Turkey had “the free and fair electoral environment which is necessary for genuinely democratic elections in line with European values and principles.”

The Congress comprises over 100,000 elected representatives from local administrations of the Council of Europe’s 46 member states. 

The Congress’ mission is to strengthen local and regional democracy in its 46 member states and to foster consultation and political dialogue between national governments and local and regional authorities.

Turkey signed the Congress’ guiding document the European Charter of Local Self-Government in 1988 with reservations and put it into force in 1993. 

The Congress in 2017 urged Turkey to restrict trustee mayor appointments and to allow Municipal Councils to choose a suitable replacement mayor for themselves in cases where a mayor is removed or suspended from office.

Turkey’s CoE membership is in jeopardy after it refused to comply with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling for the immediate release of philanthropist Osman Kavala imprisoned for “orchestrating” the Gezi protests of 2013. 

Legal experts say Turkey's removal from the CoE would lift the protection afforded to citizens by the European Convention on Human Rights as well as the ECHR.