Two polling stations in Turkey’s southeastern province of Şırnak have been moved despite a decision by the Supreme Election Board (YSK) rejecting the relocation of ballot boxes for “security” reasons.
The election council in Şırnak’s İdil district reached a decision to move two polling stations located in schools to two other schools within the same neighborhood. The council’s decision was announced through the municipality’s speakers.
The written statement sent to the municipality by the district election council stated the decision was made to ensure citizens could vote “with ease.”
“Citizens who are supposed to vote at Fatih Grade School in the Yeni neighborhood will be able to vote at Cumhuriyet Grade School while voters registered at Bener Cordan Grade School in the Turgut Özal neighborhood will vote at Atatürk Grade School,” the statement said.
According to reports, the decision was taken for the “orderly conduct” of the Nov. 1 elections, as ditches and trenches have been dug in a number of streets.
The announcement by the district election council is in defiance of the latest YSK decision overruling the relocation of ballot boxes in a number of southeastern provinces.
The controversial issue sparked when the district election council in Cizre, also a district of Şırnak, decided on Sept. 18 to not establish any ballot boxes in the district’s Cudi, Nur and Sur neighborhoods, as well as many villages. The decision cited security concerns and the risk of bomb attacks during the vote as the reason to prevent voting in these areas.
The same kind of decisions were released afterwards by local councils in Diyarbakır province, the downtown districts of Bitlis and Hakkari provinces, the Yüksekova town of Hakkari province, the Silopi town of Şırnak province and the city center of the eastern province of Batman.
However, the decisions by the local councils were overruled by a majority of the votes at the YSK on Oct. 3.
The six members of the YSK rejected the calls on the grounds that there was no regulation pertaining to the moving of ballot boxes due to security reasons. The four YSK members who voted in favor of the relocation said the YSK was responsible for ensuring the elections were conducted in security from beginning to end and thus had the authority to move the polling stations.
Turkey’s interim government and opposition parties have been at odds on the prospect of moving polling stations for the Nov. 1 snap election, with the main opposition party leader saying such a step would cast a shadow over the results while also raising questions over “the presence of the state” in certain places.
“A practice such as moving ballot boxes or voters is very dangerous. This is what it means: ‘There is no state there.’ You will create an environment where the state doesn’t exist and this is very dangerous,” Republican People’s Party (CHP) head Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said in remarks published on Sept. 30.
The leader of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, however, said “Everyone should respect decisions taken by the top election authority” in the country. He also suggested that the practice would “expose the game” of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which he claimed relied on the “coercion” of voters in parts of the southeast.