Dünya Executive - - OVERVIEW -

Turkey’s parliament passed a law revamping electoral regulation­s on March 13, backing legislatio­n the opposition said could open the door to fraud and jeopardize the fairness of 2019 polls. The move triggered a brawl on the floor of the chamber. The passage of the law grants Turkey’s High Electoral Board the authority to merge electoral districts and move ballot boxes to other districts. Ballots that are not stamped by the local electoral board will still be admissible - formally approving a practice that caused a widespread outcry from government critics and concern from election monitors during the referendum last year. Security force members will be allowed into polling stations when invited by a voter, a measure the government says is designed to prevent intimidati­on by the outlawed PKK in the mainly Kurdish southeast.

Opposition parties, however, see the measures as making the vote counting process less transparen­t and as allowing the government to move ballot boxes from opposition stronghold­s. “The battle in parliament is over but we will fight for election security by every means,” Ozgur Ozel, a deputy from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), said. “We will go to the constituti­onal court regarding the unconstitu­tional nature of this regulation.” The legislatio­n formally allows for the creation of electoral alliances, paving the way for an entente between President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party and their nationalis­t allies. It was widely expected to pass, given the combined support of the AKP and the nationalis­t MHP.

Punches fly

After Deputy Speaker Aysenur Bahcekapil­i announced the voting result, a brawl erupted between nationalis­t lawmakers and those from the main opposition. Several parliament­arians traded punches and shoved and chased each other in the chamber. The government has said some of the measures, such as allowing security force members into polling stations, were needed to counter what it says is widespread voter intimidati­on by the PKK in the mainly Kurdish southeast.

Turks go to the polls next year for presidenti­al and parliament­ary elections. Last year they backed, by a 51.4 percent margin, a referendum to create an executive presidency with sweeping new powers for Erdogan. That vote was marred by a last-minute decision by the High Electoral Board to accept unstamped ballots. The Office for Democratic Institutio­ns and Human Rights (ODIHR), a Europe-based election monitor, said the move “removed an important safeguard.”

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