The Supreme Election Board (YSK) on Tuesday vouched for the security of ballots in the June 7 general election, saying that the misappropriation of ballot papers was "impossible." Penalties for election fraud and misconduct, including years of imprisonment, have also been published.
Those who offer any sort of valuable material or services will be charged between one to three years in prison. Preventing someone from casting their vote is also a crime where the suspect faces one to four years of imprisonment and threats against voters at the polling stations also means a prison sentence of up to five years. Opening, damaging or stealing the ballot box will end with the suspect getting from three to five years in prison.
Sadi Güven, chairman of the Supreme Election Board, said nearly 74 million ballot papers have been printed for the 53.7 million voters in Turkey and an overseas electorate of 2.9 million. "There is no trouble in terms of election security concerning ballots," Güven said.
Previous elections in Turkey have been marred by allegations of voter fraud, despite the country's reputation for free and fair elections. Referring to the practice of political party representatives jointly overseeing the distribution of ballot papers, Güven added: "In accordance with the electoral law and the constitution, more ballots than needed have been printed and those not used will be collected back with the record of political parties."
"We did not conceal the fact that we printed more ballot papers than the actual numbers and everyone is aware of this." Güven said, noting that the political party representatives are informed about all details regarding this, including how many packages exist and how many of them are sent to which district. He added that the representatives of political parties at each district receive these packages and that they oversee all steps of the process from the printing of the ballot papers, to the casting of the ballots.
The former judge said the election was "substantially safe" and said Turks should be "comfortable" with the safeguards in place. He said that seven observers, including five representatives from political parties, would be present at each polling station. Dismissing the possibility of blank ballot papers reaching anyone unauthorized, he said: "The loss of the printed ballots is impossible."
Güven also highlighted that representatives from political parties are aware of how many ballots reach the polling stations and that the votes are recorded after counting, and the remaining ballot papers are sealed and packaged by the , which includes representatives from political parties. He underscored that it is impossible to print new ballot papers because they have watermark and nobody will see the papers until the day of the election.
The law requires printing more ballots than necessary in order to avoid complications in case if ballots are damaged. The provisions of the election law had been outlined in 1961 and were reformed in 2011 to bring them in line with European standards.
This week's general election will see the ruling Justice and Development (AK Party) attempt to increase its majority and usher in constitutional changes to change the parliamentary system to a presidential structure.
Turkish nationals living abroad cast 931,465 votes at 112 embassies and consulates in 54 countries before the overseas polls closed on Sunday, while a further 103,452 have voted at 33 border crossings and airports, Güven said. These votes will be counted at the same time as the ballots from within Turkey - when domestic polls close at 5 p.m. local time.Güven said the overseas election process was completed safely and monitored by "representatives of all parties."