An international election watchdog has criticized the conditions under which the Turkish election was fought, saying they were skewed in favor of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his party.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said Erdogan had benefited from excessive media coverage and raised questions about the transparency of the vote. But it did not find any significant irregularities on election day.
Erdogan, who secured a new five-year term as President on the first round of voting on Sunday, re-enters office with a vast array of new powers at his disposal, following a narrowly-won constitutional referendum last year.
Under the new system, the office of prime minister is abolished, parliament’s powers curtailed and the president is accorded wide-ranging executive authority.
Opposition leader Muharrem Ince conceded defeat, and warned that Turkey would suffer from “one-man rule” at the hands of Erdogan.
Erdogan claimed victory even before the electoral authorities had confirmed the result. The election commission later confirmed Erdogan the winner, and also said Erdogan’s Justice and development Party (AKP) and its allied Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) had retained their parliamentary majority.
While the commission gave no figures on Erdogan’s victory, state-run news agency Anadolu put Erdogan on 52.5%, well ahead of Ince on 31%, with more than 96% of the votes counted.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said that the vote lacked “conditions for contestants to compete on an equal basis.”
“The incumbent president and his party enjoyed a notable advantage, also reflected in excessive coverage by government-funded, public and private media,” OSCE special coordinator Ignacio Sanchez Amor told a press conference Monday.
In its report, the OSCE also raised concerns about transparency in the vote count, pointing to changes in the law that replaced political party representatives with civil servants as chairs of ballot box committees. It also pointed to the relocation of polling stations on security grounds as a concern, an issue that opposition parties said were attempts to make voting more difficult in their strongholds.
’We’re now in a one-man rule’
The results were a blow to Ince and his Republican People’s Party, known as the CHP. Ince ran a spirited campaign that threatened to force Erdogan into a damaging runoff and deny his party control of parliament.
Conceding defeat, Ince warned that constitutional changes ushered in by Erdogan earlier in the year represented a threat to the country’s democracy.
“A single person is becoming the head of the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary and this is a concern for a threat to the survival of the country,” he told journalists. “Turkey has departed from democratic values and Turkey has broken its ties with the parliamentary system which it had.”
“We’re now in a one-man rule – there’s no mechanism to prevent arbitrary rule. We continue to have great concerns about this situation.”
Having defeated the twin threats of a reinvigorated opposition and a weakened currency, Erdogan addressed cheering supporters in the capital, Ankara, saying the winner of the election was democracy, the national will and the nation itself.
“The winner of this election is each and every individual of my 81 million citizens,” he said.
“Turkey has decided to take the side of growth, development, investment, enrichment and a reputable, honorable and influential country in all areas in the world.”
CNN’s Gul Tuysuz and Isil Sariyuce contributed tot his report.