Dáil debates

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Other Questions

International Election Monitoring

11:45 am

Photo of Seán CroweSeán Crowe (Dublin South West, Sinn Fein)
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35. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention was drawn to the position of a person (details supplied) in the context of Turkey’s presidential and general election on 24 June 2018; his views on whether such dire and unbalanced elections go against the democratic principle of free and fair elections; and if he will call for the immediate release of the person. [27903/18]

Photo of Seán CroweSeán Crowe (Dublin South West, Sinn Fein)
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On Sunday, Turkey held presidential and parliamentary elections. They were held under a state of emergency and unparalleled repression. The presidential candidate for the Peoples’ Democratic Party, HDP, the third largest party in the country, had to campaign from his prison cell because he remains in pretrial detention on trumped up and politically motivated charges. Does the Tánaiste have any concerns about the Turkish elections? Does he believe they were free and fair? Will he make a statement on their outcome?

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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The Government issued a statement expressing serious concerns when the co-chairs of the HDP, Figen Yüksekdağ and Selahattin Demirtaş, were arrested in November 2016. Ireland made clear its concerns regarding the proportionality of the Turkish authorities’ response to the attempted coup in July 2016, and regarding the scale of the arrests of human rights defenders, journalists and political activists in the intervening period.

The arrest and detention of elected Members of Parliament such as Mr. Demirtaş is especially worrying. I have repeatedly said that all those facing trial in Turkey, including Mr. Demirtaş and the chair of Amnesty International Turkey, Taner Kılıç, must be afforded full due process, including the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial. The pretrial detention of Mr. Demirtaş has been lengthy and I am concerned that the level of transparency implicit in the right to due process has not been observed in his case. We urge the Turkish authorities to ensure that Mr. Demirtaş is given a prompt and fair trial based on the principle of presumption of innocence and in line with the European Convention of Human Rights and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights.

Official election results have yet to be published but the first indications are that Mr. Demirtaş received approximately 10% of the vote, notwithstanding his inability to run a normal election campaign because of his detention. Prior to polling day, the EU expressed concerns as to whether these elections would take place in a free and fair climate and urged the Turkish authorities to ensure that this would be the case. Ireland supported this statement and as recently as last week I publicly reiterated the call on Turkey to ensure that the elections would be fully in line with democratic principles.

The preliminary conclusions of international observers from the OSCE and the Council of Europe are that voters had a genuine choice despite the lack of conditions for contestants to compete on an equal basis. They said the incumbent President and his party enjoyed a notable advantage, reflected in excessive coverage by Government‐affiliated public and private media.

Photo of Seán CroweSeán Crowe (Dublin South West, Sinn Fein)
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The result means that Mr. Erdoğan, who has ruled Turkey for the past 15 years, will now become the country's first executive President. He will preside over a political system that grants the presidency major new powers, while omitting the necessary checks and balances.

The president now has the power to appoint vice presidents, ministers, high level officials and, more worryingly, senior judges. He can dissolve parliament, issue executive decrees and further impose a state of emergency. Tens of thousands of political and civil society activists have been jailed and more than 110,000 civil servants have been dismissed from their jobs since the announcement of the state of emergency. Does the Tánaiste agree that Erdoğan has been able to achieve this through the use of state resources? I refer to the use of repression and purges under the state of emergency that has been in place since 2016. Again, there are concerns about the election itself, including voter fraud-----

11:55 am

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Go raibh maith agat, a Theachta. Tá an t-am caite.

Photo of Seán CroweSeán Crowe (Dublin South West, Sinn Fein)
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-----and intimidation. Again, I am concerned about-----

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Níl an t-am againn. We do not have time for a response.