Venice Commission:Joint Opinion on Turkey


In a joint opinion adopted today, the legal experts stressed that late amendments to electoral legislation may undermine its function as a fair and stable framework for holding elections and providing parties with a level playing field. They may also be detrimental to a thorough and inclusive electoral process.

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Turkey – Venice Commission and OSCE experts criticise late changes to election laws 

Turquie:La Commission de Venise et les experts de l’OSCE critiquent les dernières modifications apportées à la loi électorale

Strasbourg, 14 décembre 2018 – Changing key parts of voting legislation in Turkey – just a few weeks before elections in June, and in a hasty and non-inclusive way – was problematic and contrary to international standards, according to the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).

In a joint opinion adopted today, the legal experts stressed that late amendments to electoral legislation may undermine its function as a fair and stable framework for holding elections and providing parties with a level playing field. They may also be detrimental to a thorough and inclusive electoral process.

Furthermore, late changes to voting rules might be perceived as being politically biased, undermining trust in the electoral process and results. Late amendments also reduce the opportunity for those involved in elections to familiarise themselves with the new rules as well as limiting the time needed for administrative preparations – including training and voter education.

The amendments adopted in March and April this year did, however, include some positive steps addressing previous recommendations. These included reducing the minimum age for standing for election to parliament, allowing independent candidates to run for president and providing for voting with mobile ballot boxes.

Highlighting international standards on electoral reform, the opinion makes four key recommendations to the Turkish authorities with regard to these amendments:

☛·         to reconsider the composition of the electoral administration, to better ensure its impartiality;

☛·        to reconsider the threshold concerning elections to parliament, which remains extremely high (even if somewhat mitigated by the possibility to form alliances introduced by the amendments);

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☛         to reconsider rules concerning law enforcement personnel entering polling stations;

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☛       to apply strict, clear and objective rules to the relocation of polling stations on security grounds.

Further recommendations encourage the obligatory stamping of ballots, altering regulations on the size, capacity and assignment of polling stations and not requiring independent presidential candidates to pay a deposit before their registration, as well as respecting the constitutional ban on late changes to electoral legislation in the future.

Today’s opinion was requested by the Monitoring Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in May 2018.

The opinion covers two sets of amendments, adopted on 13 March and 25 April 2018, as well as the effects of the 2017 constitutional reform in Turkey on existing electoral legislation. It is not a full and comprehensive review of the entire legal framework governing elections in the country.

The full text of the opinion will be published on the Venice Commission website on Monday 17 December.

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