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June 7th Turkey Election to Be Closely Scrutinized

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) makes a heart shape with his hands after delivering a speech at a rally in Istanbul, Turkey, June 2, 2015.
Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) makes a heart shape with his hands after delivering a speech at a rally in Istanbul, Turkey, June 2, 2015.

Turkey's June 7th general election is set to be closely monitored amid growing concerns among opposition parties. But civic society in Turkey is mobilizing in an unprecedented way to ensure a fair election.

Every Turkish opposition political party has voiced concern the country's June 7th election could be marred by vote tampering. A recent opinion poll found nearly half the electorate fear the election could be rigged.

Parliament Member Ertugrul Kurkcu of the pro Kurdish HDP says the biggest struggle could be ensuring votes for his party are counted fairly.

"I am very much concerned, we have no confidence. We [are] already assured that the system will not going ... count the votes accordingly. Therefore we have appointed two persons for each ballot box ...and they are going to photograph the final documents and its going to be collected through a network of Android cell phones," said Kurkcu.

Opinion polls indicate the HDP is hovering around the 10 percent threshold required to enter parliament. If the HDP is successful the 50 or more seats it could secure would come at the expense of the ruling the AK Party, its chief rival in the predominantly Kurdish southeast of Turkey.

Analysts say those seats could be the difference between AK Party retaining or losing its majority. Diplomatic columnist and Kurdish affairs expert Kadri Gursel says election fraud concerns could be well founded.

"The stakes are very high, that is why people do think the vote will be rigged. Because there are 170,000 ballot boxes in Turkey, so transferring two or three votes cast for HDP in every each of them, is one percent. One percent is sufficiently enough maintain the HDP below the 10 percent threshold. There are many ways of vote rigging from casting to counting," said Gursel.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has angrily rejected suggestions of voting impropriety and said he would resign if any evidence is found. Analysts say Turkey has long history of fair elections dating back to 1950. But last year’s local elections were mired in controversy, with allegations of vote stuffing, along with mysterious power cuts during vote counting.

The impartiality of the Supreme Election Board that administers the election is also under question.

But civic society is stepping forward. A video by the group Vote and Beyond (Oy ve Otesi) calls for volunteers to monitor ballot boxes.

Spokesperson Yasmin Ors says the group has trained more than 30,000 monitors.

"The security of ballot boxes in Turkey has always been a question mark in people’s minds, for the past 10 years. Since this is a constitutional right of the citizens to be on the ballot and watch the ballots themselves, individually as well. We thought why not mobilize these people. At the moment we are organizing about 40 cities in Turkey," said Ors.

The group also plans to monitor the state electronic voter tallying system. A special software has been developed to allow the group's monitors to scan voter numbers taken from each ballot box and enter them into its system to calculate the election result.

Software developer Sina Hakman says it gives the people the means to check official results.

"No one checks anything, the code is not open on this government system, so it is a closed box. So that is what we aiming at, to make sure what we feed into the system is going through a completely separate loop. And actually the results out of both of them is actually the same. In a very short period of time we are looking six to seven hours to enter 165,000 results," said Hakman.

The June 7th election is expected to be one of most closely contested and difficult to predict in more than a decade, but it will also be the most closely scrutinized.