PM’s Post, Media Bias Gave Erdogan Undue Advantage, Observers Say

Politics | August 12, 2014, Tuesday // 12:19
Bulgaria: PM’s Post, Media Bias Gave Erdogan Undue Advantage, Observers Say Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) and his wife Emine wave to supporters in front of a polling station in Istanbul, Turkey, 10 August 2014. Photo by EPA/BGNES

Prime Minister Erdogan’s use of his official position plus biased media coverage gave him a distinct advantage in Turkey’s presidential vote, international observers have said.

According to the observers’ preliminary conclusions released by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the three candidates were “generally able to campaign freely” but media coverage of the campaign was slanted in favour of the Prime Minister, “with major television stations providing extensive coverage of his campaign and only limited coverage of other contestants.”

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan won outright victory at Sunday’s first direct presidential elections, capturing nearly 52% of the vote.

Vilija Aleknait?-Abramikien?, Special Co-ordinator who led the short-term OSCE observer mission, commented that the first election of the head of state by the public demonstrated that “there is a vibrant political life in Turkey” but the biased media coverage “must be overcome to fully live up to the democratic aspirations of the people.”

International observers have also highlighted in their findings that the biased media coverage was “compounded by the predominance of paid political advertising for him [Erdogan] and by the absence of a clear definition of the impartiality requirement for broadcasters.”

On the positive side the observers noted that the Supreme Board of Elections (SBE) and the election administration had acted in a professional manner. Although the SBE allowed all convicts outside of prison the right to vote, the deprivation of voting rights of active conscripts, cadets and prisoners who have committed intentional crimes was “at odds with the principle of universal suffrage and a recent ruling of the European Court of Human Rights,” the statement read.

The observers also noted that Turkey’s 2012 Law on Presidential Elections needs improvements in key areas. While the bill has introduced campaign finance regulations, allowing candidates to receive limited donations from Turkish citizens, it has not addressed candidates’ personal funds and party funding.

“The existing framework lacks provisions for full disclosure, comprehensive reporting, and sanctions, which limit the transparency and accountability of the process,” the observers noted.

The international observers' final report is expected to be presented in six to eight weeks.

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Tags: OSCE, observers, Erdogan, turkey, Presidential elections, media, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe
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