Turkish security officials on Tuesday turned water cannons on protesters marching in reaction to widespread allegations that this weekend’s local elections – which saw the Justice and Development Party (AKP) of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan secure a plurality of the votes – were marked by fraud, intimidation, and mysterious power outages in opposition-heavy districts.
Residents of the Turkey’s Duzici district, where the AKP candidate beat his nearest opponent by 440 votes, reported finding discarded ballots marked for an opposition party in at least six area polling stations.
City residents reported the incident to the police when they found the used ballots in the trash in Osmaniye’s Düziçi district. According to reports, the schools where the ballots were found are the Uzunbanı Elementary School, Atatürk High School, Atatürk Elementary School, Cumhuriyet High School, Cumhuriyet Elementary School and ÇEAŞ Anatolian High School. It was claimed that the ballots were planned to be burned.
Reports of power outages were brushed off by municipal authorities as mostly the result of bad weather or – in one case – a rogue feline.
Ankara, where the AKP candidate defeated the next opponent by less than a percentage point, was one of several cities in which protestors demanded recounts.
More than 1,000 people demonstrated outside the elections authority in the capital Ankara, where the incumbent mayor of Erdogan’s ruling party has declared victory with a wafer-thin margin of about one percent. “Thief Tayyip!” the protesters chanted, while others yelled, “Ankara, don’t sleep. Stand up for your vote!”
The new controversies, to say nothing of the government’s response to those controversies, are unlikely to dampen growing criticism that Turkey has more or less ceased to be a functioning liberal democracy.
In late February over 80 top U.S. foreign policy figures called on President Barack Obama to take action to halt “Turkey’s current path,” and declared that “silence will only encourage Prime Minister Erdogan to diminish the rule of law in the country even further.”
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