International Election Observers Assert Turkish Elections Competitive Yet Limited
Bilge Ece Zeyrek
Middle East and Human Rights Researcher
Global Human Rights Defence
On May 14, 2023, Turkey held concurrent parliamentary and presidential elections. Although the incumbent government secured a majority in parliament, no presidential candidate achieved a majority, necessitating a second-round vote. On May 28, 2023, Turkey will choose between the current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Nation Alliance's joint candidate, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. Amid the excitement of the election atmosphere across Turkey, the world watches keenly as the outcome is expected to significantly impact the country's policy domains such as economy and migration.
The election process itself also attracted international attention. A joint observation mission from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA), and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) monitored polling stations across various provinces to assess the elections' compliance with OSCE commitments, other international obligations and standards for democratic elections, and national legislation. The observer team later published a report detailing their preliminary findings and conclusions. 
At a press conference, Michael Georg Link, the Special Coordinator and leader of the OSCE observer mission, said that while the Turkish elections were somewhat competitive, they were restricted due to the criminalization of certain political groups.  The detention of multiple opposition politicians limited the establishment of complete political pluralism and infringed on individuals' rights to participate in the elections. Link also mentioned that political interference in the electoral process contradicts Turkey's international commitments. The team's preliminary conclusions revealed that the current president and ruling parties held an unjustified advantage, further amplified by biased media coverage.  Persistent constraints on essential freedoms of assembly, association, and expression impeded the participation of opposition politicians, civil society, and independent media in the election process.  The international team will also observe the second round of the presidential elections on May 28, 2023.
Sources and further reading:
 OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, ‘International Election Observation Mission Republic of Türkiye – General Elections, 14 May 2023, Statement of Preliminary Findings and Conclusions’ (15 May 2023) <https://www.osce.org/files/f/documents/6/2/543543.pdf> accessed 17 May 2023.
 OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, International Election Observation Mission to the General Elections in Türkiye (15 May 2023) <https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/turkiye/537642> accessed 17 May 2023.
 OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (n 1).