Soldiers, police officers vote in uniform in Turkey’s eastern provinces despite election law

Turkish authorities brought soldiers and police officers to polling stations in uniform in many provinces in Eastern Anatolia and Southeastern Anatolia despite the election law banning any officers in uniform from entering voting areas. DEM Party also stated that security officers transferred to these districts en masse to decrease the pro-Kurdish party's vote share.

Duvar English

Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy (DEM) Party lawmakers recorded footage of soldiers and police officers being transported to vote in the districts of eastern Mardin, Diyarbakır, Hakkari, and Şırnak provinces while wearing their uniforms despite the election law banning any officers in uniform from entering voting stations. 

Turkey on March 31 is holding local elections throughout its 81 provinces, 922 districts, and their neighborhoods. 

The Supreme Election Council's (YSK) legislation on armed officers states, "Except for law enforcement officers in charge of ensuring the security of the election, persons in official uniform and carrying weapons, including private security officers and municipal police officers, may not enter the buildings and their outbuildings where the ballot box is placed.”

Nonetheless, police officers and soldiers were brought to the schools in the Dargeçit and Savur districts of Mardin, Kulp district of Diyarbakır, Yüksekova district in Hakkari, Nazımiye district in Dersim and central district of Şırnak with buses and armored vehicles and voted in uniform, according to Mesopotamia Agency.

Furthermore, the DEM Party has been stating before the elections that police officers and soldiers have been registered in the districts en masse to decrease the pro-Kurdish party’s vote share in these constituencies. 

DEM Party lawmakers Ferhat Encü and Kamuran Tanhan recorded soldiers and police officers being transported by buses to schools where the polling stations situated in Turkey.

Şırnak lawmaker Mehmet Zeki İrmez also shared images of security forces being transported in his province and wrote, "You see mobile voters who have never been to Şırnak in their lives!”

Following the allegations that security officers who were moved to Savur and Dargeçit districts of Mardin voted en masse, DEM's co-mayoral candidate for Mardin Metropolitan Municipality Ahmet Türk travelled to Savur district with a delegation from France to follow the elections.

Police officers prevented the French delegation from entering the schools in the district.

According to the voter lists posted on the ballot boxes at a local school there, it was revealed that soldiers and police officers from Yozgat, Manisa, Antep, Adana, Çorum, Osmaniye, Muğla and many other provinces, as well as from Russia, had moved to the district.

Türk noted that 251 voters were registered on a street in that district and none of them were local or woman.

“If you are a security officer, you should know that you are in charge of ensuring security. If you take a stand for the election of someone or stand with the political power, you will betray your own profession,” Türk underscored.

DEM Mardin deputy Beritan Güneş Altın also said that they had determined many voter relocations and said, "At the end of the day, the will of the people will be the winner."

Official account of DEM Party stated, "AKP government is mobilizing soldiers and police officers to vote in order to secure victory in Kurdish cities where the DEM Party holds the majority. Videos show the orchestrated transfer of fake voters and local people's reactions to this deceitful scheme."

The DEM announced that the party has filed objections regarding these violations.

Turkish Presidency's Directorate of Communications denied that security personnel involved in any irregular voting and argued, "Security personnel assigned to military units in various regions of our country are transported to the schools where they will vote collectively in order to prevent any security breach. The aforementioned security personnel vote only in the electoral districts where they are registered as voters. Contrary to the allegations, there is no double voting, violation, or any negativity regarding election security.. Do not rely on provocative claims shared on social media regarding election security."

The DEM had objected to 54,060 irregular voters in 32 locations prior to the elections, yet YSK declined most of them. The party stated security officeres registered in Diyarbakır, Şırnak, Hakkari, Batman, Ağrı, Muş, Iğdır, Kars, Şanlıurfa, Siirt, Mardin, Tunceli provinces where Turkey’s Kurdish population densely populated.