The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (hereinafter referred to as the "SCO" or "Organisation"), the world's largest transregional international organisation, is largely involved in developing a unique model of multilateral cooperation that meets the interests of all states in the region. The SCO accounts for one-third of the Eurasian continent with almost 44 percent of the world population stretching from the Arctic Ocean to the Indian Ocean, from the Pacific Ocean to the Baltic Sea. The aim of the SCO is to maintain peace, stability and security as well as joint development and increasing the well-being of the SCO peoples.
One of the fields of the SCO's activity is international monitoring of presidential and parliamentary elections and referendums. Since 2004, the SCO has organised 46 election observer missions, primarily in the SCO member states.
For the first time in the Organisation's history, at the invitation of the Turkish Foreign Ministry, the SCO has sent a mission to observe the elections in the Turkish Republic, an SCO dialogue partner.
During the period between 18-25 June 2018, the SCO Mission observed the preparations for and holding of special elections of the Turkish President and members of the Turkish Parliament (Türkiye Büyük Millet Meclisi) on 24 June 2018.
The Mission sees the invitation of international observers as the Turkish leadership's intention to ensure transparency, openness and a democratic nature of the presidential and parliamentary elections in the country.
1. The Mission's lineup
The Mission included 20 accredited experienced observers representing legislative, executive and election agencies of eight SCO member states (India, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan), as well as SCO Secretariat officials.
SCO Deputy Secretary-General Vladimir Potapenko headed the Mission.
The Mission included the following members:
From the Republic of Kazakhstan: Bakhyt Meldeshov, member of the Central Election Commission of the Republic of Kazakhstan; Ainash Konayeva, Chief Expert of the Department of Electronic Education of the Ogranisation of the Central Election Commission of the Republic of Kazakhstan;
From the People's Republic of China: Yu Kaiwen, Third Secretary, Foreign Ministry of China;
From the Kyrgyz Republic: Abdyzhapar Bekmatov, Deputy Chairman of the Central Election Commission of the Kyrgyz Republic; Zhoomart Dzhorobayev, Special Representative of the Kara-Suu Territorial Election Commission of the Osh Region of the Kyrgyz Republic;
From the Islamic Republic of Pakistan: Syed Ali Asad Gilani, Deputy Head of the Pakistani Embassy in the Republic of Turkey;
From the Russian Federation: Artur Taimazov, Deputy of the State Duma of the Russian Federation;
From the Republic of Tajikistan: Bakhtiyor Khudoyorzoda, Chairman of the Central Commission for Elections and Referendums of the Republic of Tajikistan; Samadzoda Navruz, Chief of Staff at the Central Commission for Elections and Referendums of the Republic of Tajikistan.
From the Republic of Uzbekistan: Mirza-Ulugbek Abdusalomov, Chairman of the Central Election Commission of the Republic of Uzbekistan; Suyarzhon Kurbankulov, Secretary of the Central Election Commission of the Republic of Uzbekistan; Nodirbek Radzhapov, Deputy of the Legislative Chamber of the Supreme Assembly (Oliy Majlis) of the Republic of Uzbekistan; Zhamolitdin Fakhrutdinov, Department Head of the Central Election Commission of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
From the SCO Secretariat: Councilor Prakash Anand; senior expert Nurali Irzayev; assistants Ulugbek Yusubov, Adilet Orozbekov, Daniar Chirkeyev and Krishna Kengappa.
2. The legal framework and operating principles of the Mission
The Mission worked under the SCO Regulations on the SCO Observer Mission at Presidential and/or Parliamentary Elections and Referendums, which the SCO Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs approved in 2006, and in accordance with the practical experience accumulated by SCO observer missions at international elections over the past 14 years.
The Mission worked on the basis of the principles of objectivity, political neutrality, openness and non-interference in the internal affairs and in strict compliance with the laws of the Republic of Turkey.
The Mission's conclusions are based on the personal observations conducted by the Mission staff and factual material collected during the preparations for the election and directly on the election day of 24 June 2018.
3. Operation of the Mission
Upon receiving an official invitation from the Turkish side, in late May 2018, SCO Secretary-General Rashid Alimov instructed his deputy, Vladimir Potapenko, to create an SCO Mission and to supervise its operation in Turkey.
On 6 June 2018, the SCO Secretary-General, seeking to streamline the work of the Mission, approved a concept for the operation of the SCO Mission during the preparations for the special presidential and parliamentary elections in the Republic of Turkey and on the election day.
In keeping with this concept, the Mission staff scrutinised the election legislation and practice of the Republic of Turkey.
The Mission head (the SCO Deputy Secretary-General) and members held official meetings with the President of the Supreme Electoral Council (hereinafter referred to as the SEC) of the Republic of Turkey, the leadership of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the leadership and members of the regional and district election bodies, voters, members of the observer missions of foreign countries and international organisations, as well as the media.
The Mission received all the necessary information and election documents from the Turkish election authorities, had free access to all polling stations and other voting premises, and was updated on the efforts taken by the SEC to prepare and hold the elections in the country, at the customs stations on the border and at the Turkish diplomatic offices abroad, as well as on the election campaigns of the participants in the elections.
A day before the election day, the Mission visited the Centre for Monitoring the Holding of Elections Abroad and was informed in detail about its operation.
The necessary conditions were created for monitoring the preparations for and holding of the election of the president and parliament of Turkey by the Mission, which is evidence of the openness, transparency and democratic nature of the election process.
4. Legal framework for holding elections in the Republic of Turkey
The legal framework for the presidential and parliamentary elections in the Republic of Turkey comprises Law No. 6771 on amendments to the constitution of the Republic of Turkey; Law No. 7102 on main provisions on elections, lists of voters and amendments to various laws; Law No. 7140 on the main provisions on elections, lists of voters and amendments to various laws, Law No. 6271 on the election of the Head of State; Law No. 2839 on the election of deputies to representative bodies, and other regulatory documents.
Elections in Turkey are conducted on the basis of universal equal and direct suffrage by secret ballot, with open and transparent principles of counting all votes.
The next election of the President and Parliament of Turkey was previously scheduled for November 3, 2019.
However, on April 18, 2018, the President of Turkey decided to move the election date for June 24, 2018, that is, to hold an extraordinary presidential election and the 27th parliamentary elections on that day. This decision was approved by the Parliament of Turkey.
The President of the Republic of Turkey is elected for a term of five years directly by the people from among Turkish citizens over 40 years of age who have completed higher education. The President of the Republic cannot serve more than two terms.
The President of the Republic is elected by a majority of the vote. If an outright majority of votes cannot be obtained in the first round, a second round is held on the second Sunday after the voting day between the two candidates who receive the greatest number of votes in the first round.
The Parliament of Turkey consists of 600 deputies elected in general elections. Every citizen who has reached the age of 18 has the right to be elected to the Parliament of Turkey.
5. Electoral bodies of Turkey
The organization, oversight and security of elections are the responsibility of the electoral bodies of Turkey, which operate under the supervision of the court. Electoral bodies have a hierarchical structure, which includes:
1) the 11-member Supreme Electoral Council;
2) 81 regional electoral bodies established across the country;
3) 1,082 district electoral bodies;
4) ballot box committees (at 180,065 polling stations);
5) the electoral body for organising voting abroad.
6. Organisation of elections abroad
The Mission notes that the Supreme Electoral Council, the electoral body for organising elections abroad, affiliated with the regional electoral body of the City of Ankara, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Turkish diplomatic missions abroad have carried out extensive work to create favourable voting conditions for Turkish citizens living in foreign states.
For these purposes, 559 polling stations were established at 123 Turkish diplomatic missions in 60 foreign states. In all, 3,379 election committees (polling stations) were established. Turkish citizens could vote by absentee ballot from 7 June 2018, to 19 June 2018.
7. Preparing for the elections
On 26 April 2018, the Supreme Electoral Council passed Decision No. 289 to approve a schedule to prepare and hold early presidential and parliamentary elections in Turkey.
By 30 April 2018, the initial date of the election process, the state agencies involved in the election process accomplished the goals stipulated by national legislation.
The electoral bodies and other agencies implemented the following:
1) The Supreme Electoral Council updated registration lists. The country has a population of 81.5 million. Of this number, 59,369,955 eligible voters were registered, including 56,322,632 persons in the country and 3,047,323 citizens abroad.
2) Turkish young people made a substantial contribution to holding successful elections. A total of 1,522,000 young people voted for the first time. Youth organisations of various political parties were very active.
3) Favourable voting conditions were created for people with disabilities. These voters were marked with the letter E on the registration list to provide them with more convenient voting conditions. Visually impaired persons and those with locomotor disabilities, as well as persons over 75, had the right to use the same ballot boxes as their relatives on the main floors of polling stations. Pregnant, ill, disabled and elderly persons voted ahead of schedule. Mobile ballot boxes were used for the first time at 1,307 polling stations. This allowed 17,359 voters, unable to reach polling stations, to cast ballots.
4) The Supreme Electoral Council published various booklets and instructions of additional information to election bodies, presidential candidates and members of parliament, international and local observers and all other parties to elections. Turkish-language legal documents were posted on the website of the Supreme Electoral Council. Parts of the documents were posted in English, for a more universal understanding of national law.
All of Turkey's central and local services involved in the process functioned proactively to promote the safety of voters, international observers and other parties to the election campaign and to protect their rights.
8. Modern information technology
Election Informatics System — SEÇSİS was used to ensure a fair, transparent and inclusive election in Turkey.
This system provided for preparing, storing and transferring election-related data. It was also used to update the lists of voters, as well as to ensure safe data transfers between the voting authorities and the political parties, and preventing all kinds of violations in this field. The system was also used to spread information about the ongoing work.
Since 2009, all voting results are made public at www.ysk.gov.tr, featuring detailed voting data and using SSPS, the system for spreading polling results.
The Political Parties' Portal (SIPPORT) was designed for transferring information and documents related to parties that run in an election.
9. International observers
Representatives from more than 50 countries as well as a number of international organisations were among the election observers. Apart from the SCO, observer missions were sent by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation, the Parliamentary Assembly of Turkic Speaking Countries, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE and others.
10. Presidential candidates
Six candidates were registered to run in the Turkish presidential election:
1) Doğu Perinçek, born on 17 June 1942, Chair of the Patriotic Party;
2) Meral Akşener (Ms), born on 18 July 1956, Chair of the İyi Party;
3) Muharrem Ince, born on 4 May 1964, Chair of the Republican People's Party;
4) Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, born on 26 February 1954, incumbent President of Turkey, candidate of the People's Alliance, formed by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
5) Selahattin Demirtaş, born on 10 April 1973, Chair of the Peoples' Democratic Party;
6) Temel Karamollaoğlu, born on 20 September 1941, Chair of the Felicity Party.
11. Candidates for elections to the Parliament of the Republic of Turkey
Political parties nominated 4,783 candidates for special elections to the Parliament of Turkey, including:
1) 600 candidates from the Justice and Development Party;
2) 600 candidates from the Republican People's Party;
3) 600 candidates from the Peoples' Democratic Party;
4) 583 candidates from the Free Cause Party;
5) 600 candidates from the Good Party;
6) 600 candidates from the Nationalist Movement Party;
7) 600 candidates from the Welfare Party;
8) 600 candidates from the Homeland Party;
9) 68 independent candidates.
12. Election Day
In accordance with Resolution No. 270 of 22 April 2018, the Supreme Electoral Council scheduled Election Day on 24 June 2018 from 8 am to 5 pm.
Members of the Mission arrived at the polls (ballot box committees) before their opening. They were present during the preparations of ballots and the sealing of fixed and portable ballot boxes.
To ensure a representative view of the election process at voting stations on Turkish territory, the Mission monitored two major Turkish cities, the capital city of Ankara and Istanbul.
On Election Day the members of the Mission visited 326 voting stations, as well as regional and district election bodies of the republic.
They did not coordinate their visits to the polling stations with Turkish executive or election bodies. They chose them independently. There were no obstacles to these visits.
The Mission notes the active participation of the electorate in the voting and the professionalism of the local election bodies.
The organisers of the voting stations created the necessary conditions for the voting, remained impartial and gave exhaustive answers to the questions of voters.
Documents, reference materials, schedules, evacuation maps and more were available at voting stations.
The activities of the election bodies were competent, open, transparent and independent.
The voting at the polls proceeded in a calm fashion. Established procedures were followed and local and international observers and journalists were present.
Members of the Mission were also present at the closure of voting stations, the counting of votes in the country and abroad, and the signing of protocols on the voting results.
Members of the Mission did not receive any complaints or comments on Election Day.
At the same time the Mission noted some cases of technical violations. They were not committed on a mass scale and could not have influenced the election results.
13. Main conclusions
During their monitoring activities, Mission members proceed from the assumption that elections are held for the people of Turkey and for the purposes of the country's sustainable socioeconomic development, rather than for international observers.
Mission members hereby state that the special election of the president and parliament of the Republic of Turkey met the requirements of Turkish election legislation and the country's international obligations.
Mission members noted no violations of the requirements of national legislation.
Mission members recognise the election as transparent, authentic and democratic.
Mission members hereby state that the special presidential and parliamentary elections were an important step towards the further development of democratic processes in the Republic of Turkey.
Mission members congratulate the people of Turkey on electing the president and parliament of the Republic of Turkey and wish them every success in strengthening the country's independence, sovereignty and socioeconomic development and new achievements in all spheres of life.
Members of the Observer Mission of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation are grateful to the Supreme Electoral Council of the Republic of Turkey, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey as well as other organisations and agencies for their all-round assistance and help during the course of their work.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation's