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TI calls for greater transparency as Turkey holds its first direct presidential election

Voters in Turkey went to the polls on Sunday for their first direct presidential elections, following Transparency International’s pressure on the presidential candidates to declare their assets publicly and make other disclosures.

Nearly 53 million registered voters cast their votes between three candidates on August 10, and they decided to make current prime minster, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, their president in this historic event.

Sunday’s victory extends Erdogan’s more than 10-year rule over the country for another five years.

As opposed to other parliamentary governments, the presidency in Turkey confers significant powers to its officeholder.

Since the establishment of the Turkish Republic in 1923, however, presidents were always elected by parliament. A 2007 referendum introduced direct presidential elections.

Prior to the election, Transparency International Turkey called on the candidates to make asset declarations and campaign finance disclosures as part of the electoral process.

All three presidential candidates made a public declaration of what they personally own, which TI calls “a good first step.” The anti-corruption NGO would like future candidates to declare the assets of their closest relatives as well to add further transparency to the process.

TI also expressed concern about the huge advantage conferred on the incumbent in Turkey’s political races.

As prime minister, Erdoğan enjoyed far greater access to the state’s media and other resources to run a presidential campaign than his opponents, possessing 533 minutes of air time on Institution of Turkey Radio and Television in a recent three-day period, with only three minutes being given to Ekmeleddin Mehmet İhsanoğlu and 45 seconds to Demirtaş.

As TI said, this doesn’t show impartiality and accountability, particularly when the campaign only runs for 29 days.

The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), a Vienna-based international security and rights organization, also voiced its concerns, pointing out that Erdoğan’s campaign events were “large-scale” and “often combined with official government events.”

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Julie DiMauro is the executive editor of FCPA Blog and can be reached here.

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