FRODSHAM councillor Andrew Dawson is back home after leading a delegation of members of the Council of Europe who were monitoring local government elections in Turkey.
He led a 22-strong team of representatives from 20 of the 47 member states of the Council Europe – the body that safeguards human rights, democracy and the rule of law throughout the continent of Europe.
The Council of Europe is not the European Union and Britain will remain a member of it even after leaving the EU.
Cllr Dawson and his team came home impressed with the mechanics of voting in Turkey – which they felt were largely sound and conducted competently – but they were less impressed about the wider political climate in Turkey.
The former Mayor of Frodsham said: “We spoke with local politicians, journalists, election officials and government officials. We also watched the votes being cast in several polling stations and some of the counting afterwards. Throughout we were considering whether the elections were ‘free and fair.’
“In terms of the voting system we could learn much from the Turks. Every voter has to produce identification and sign the voters list once they have voted. Their system is bureaucratic – with voters having to put their ballot papers (there were four elections run simultaneously) in an envelope before placing the envelope in the ballot box.
“All ballot boxes were opened and counted at the end of voting and counted by the staff who had administered the voting. I estimated that at least 750,000 people were involved in administering the voting for the 57 million voters country-wide.
“So whilst the mechanics of voting were largely sound and conducted competently we had to express serious reservations about the wider political climate in Turkey.”
Cllr Dawson said some of the reservations were:
*the use of state resources in ways that favour one political party over another;
*the lack of effective regulation of the media including TV, radio and newspapers allowing wall to wall coverage of one political party whilst largely ignoring the others; and
*a very wide definition of “terrorism”.
Cllr Dawson said that prior to the elections, nearly 100 elected Mayors had been removed from office and replaced by government trustees, allegedly for corruption or for being terrorists or being associated with terrorists.
Given challenges being made to the voting, principally in Ankara and Istanbul, the Council of Europe remained very interested in how matters play out, he added.
“It was a great honour to be invited to lead the delegation to Turkey and I was able to keep in touch with Frodsham and deal with local problems raised by constituents while I was there.”