The riddle of the SEC’s unstamped slip resolution

No justification has been forthcoming in two days for the Supreme Election Council’s resolution to deem unstamped votes valid, determining as it did the fate of the poll.

cumhuriyet.com.tr
18 Nisan 2017 Salı, 16:10

Alican Uludağ

Even though two days have passed since the poll, the Supreme Election Council (SEC), which placed the results under doubt by ruling on the referendum day that voting slips not having the polling committee stamp on their rear are valid, has not placed this resolution on its official website. It has been established that a mere two hours prior to this scandalous resolution by the SEC, it had taken a totally contrary resolution and had said, ‘Composite voting slips that do not bear the polling committee stamp on their rear are not valid. The purpose of this is to prevent the use of fraudulent voting slips.

It is noticeable that no explanation has as yet been forthcoming from the SEC as to the justification for the resolution it took on Sunday that unstamped votes would be valid. From what has been gleaned, the resolution was signed by all members on Sunday. However, two days have passed and SEC Chair Güven has not put up the justified resolution on the site. The SEC, instead of justifying the resolution, yesterday placed certain resolutions to this effect dating from before 2004 on the site. One SEC member, declaring himself surprised by this situation, said that he will bring the matter onto the agenda at today’s meeting.

Another legal scandal that the SEC has created was in changing the law within two hours on 16 April. The SEC convened at about 10:00 hours while voting was in progress. On the agenda was voting in certain places with the use of the ‘Yes’ stamp in place of the ‘Preference’ stamp and certain voting slips being stamped with the stamp that should be on the rear of voting slips on the front.

The SEC, having discussed both events, deemed voting slips to which the ‘YES’ stamp had been applied to be valid under resolution 559 that it passed. The Council also decided in the same resolution that voting slips that had been erroneously stamped on the front would be deemed valid.

Fraud was the justification

The Council cited Circular number 135/I in its justification. It was pointed out that Article 21 of the Circular contains the rule:

‘... shall open the composite voting slip package that has been received from the sub-province election council chair’s office and has been numbered and stamped on the outside by the Supreme Election Council, count them all and stamp the rear of each of the composite voting slips with the polling committee stamp and stamps,’

as does paragraph (c) of Article 43:

‘Composite voting slips that do not bear the polling committee’s stamp on their rear shall not be valid.’

The following was said in the justification:

‘The purpose whereby voting slips are stamped with the polling committee stamp is to prevent fraudulent voting slips from being used in voting and the erroneous application of the stamp serving to fulfil this purpose by the polling committee to the front side of the voting slip or, while being applied to the rear, its showing through on the front due to an excess of ink do not by their nature appear to require the voting slip to be deemed invalid.’ That is, the SEC has stated in its justification that composite voting slips that do not have the polling committee stamp on their rear will not be deemed valid and the purpose of this is to prevent the use of fraudulent voting slips.

Forgotten in two hours!

With voting in the referendum underway, voting slips not bearing the voting committee stamp were found to be in use. Objections to this were coming in.

The SEC convened for a second time at 12:00 hours at the behest of the AKP’s representative two hours after the morning decision. At the conclusion of the meeting, the resolution was passed that, ‘Voting slips not bearing the polling committee stamp on their rear are also valid.’ The Council thereby forgot the justification it had set out two hours earlier and contradicted itself.

 

An SEC member spoke to Cumhuriyet: ‘If the CHP objects we will look into it’ 

All eyes have turned to the SEC in view of the controversial and contradictory resolution. An SEC member Cumhuriyet got through to replied as following to questions about this resolution:

- When was the resolution that votes not having the polling committee stamp would be valid passed?

The resolution was passed before the ballot boxes had yet been opened. We convened at about 12:00 on the polling day and passed it. No ballot boxes had yet been opened and no counting had been done. With indications coming in as the poll was progressing that some voting slips had no polling committee stamp, we convened and passed this resolution.

- Did your resolution give rise to discussion about fraudulent votes?

What is important here is the voting slips’ watermark. Just as Turkish money is watermarked, there is a watermark that the SEC gets specially printed on voting slips. The presence of the stamp on the rear is a secondary point. As long as voting slips are watermarked, there is no problem as far as we are concerned.

- But Article 101 of Law number 298 makes stamped voting slips mandatory.

The European Convention on Human Rights is important for us. Article 67 of the Constitution provides for the right of the citizen to vote. The right of citizens to vote has been enshrined here. Now, can the citizen be blamed for the fault of the polling committee forgetting the stamp? Can we blame the citizen, saying why did you not check if the slip was stamped? The European Convention on Human Rights and Constitution say that the right to vote and stand for election is the most cherished of rights. We deemed these two norms to prevail. These norms are above the law. The article of Law number 298 is subordinate to these overriding norms. The important thing is for there to be a watermark. The stamp is a more secondary point. If you declare this vote invalid, is this not a greater infringement of a right?

- Well, how many unstamped votes were cast in the referendum?

We do not know at the moment. The ballot box consolidation records have not yet reached us. I cannot give a figure. This situation occurred in western provinces. In fact, people in the ‘No’ camp also called on unstamped slips to be valid.

- What if fraudulent votes have been cast?

So far, no allegation of votes being cast with slips brought from the outside have reached us.

- In the resolution that you passed in the morning of the same day, you said, ‘Voting slips that do not have the polling committee stamp are not valid.’ You stated that this was passed for the purpose of preventing fraudulent votes from being cast. This is a contradiction, is it not?

There may have been an error in drafting this resolution.

- Is the use of the ‘Yes’ stamp in place of the ‘Preference’ stamp in certain places not liable to influence voters?

No. There is no possibility of this. They may have been handed out through carelessness. But these votes are also valid.

- If the CHP objects to this resolution, will you review it?

Yes. The Council will look into the matter again with reference to the nature of all the events.