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Research concept and plan

The project will start with the completion of the conceptualization of the research based on the initial studies. The first stage is aimed at working out the detailed framework to analyze at a later stage different types of the electoral malpractice which can be observed in the case of Turkey. Firstly, it is about defining clearly how we understand the electoral malpractice. There has been a growing scholarship on the “electoral integrity” on the one hand, and “flawed/manipulated/rigged elections” and “electoral malpractice”, on the other. However, the research goal is to investigate the phenomenon of “electoral malpractice” understood as the violation of electoral integrity, which means the violation of internationally accepted standards of elections throughout the whole electoral cycle, that is in the pre-electoral period, during the campaign, on the voting day as well as after the elections. There is a difference between this term and “mispractice”— the flaws in elections that are not done on purpose, but result from an unintentional error or other impediments.

The electoral malpractice may be traced not only right before the election day or on the election day, but concerns many more aspects, such as the election laws, electoral procedures, and boundary delimitation to the campaign finances, media, voters and candidate registration, voting process, vote count, and declaration of results. This means that electoral malpractice is a broader term than electoral fraud. The most frequent types of malpractice take the form of irregularities, deficiencies, or flaws in electoral management at different levels during the electoral process, which can be addressed and corrected if good will exists. Elections, as we understand it, are a continuous process, with all these aspects and phases of the electoral cycle equally important when assessing the electoral integrity/malpractice in a particular country. Flaws in one of the phases of the electoral cycle mean that the elections have been flawed. It is thus important to go beyond polling day and the vote count, to include the broad determinants of political competition.

Apart from defining the concept of electoral malpractice the conceptualization will include the taxonomy of electoral malpractice which is the starting point for the theoretical and empirical reflection, based on the Turkish case study in comparative perspective. According to Sarah Birch there are three main components of the electoral malpractice:

a) Manipulation of the law

This dimension deals with the manipulation of electoral legislation, such as gerrymandering and malapportionment; additionally, this could cover the manipulation of the criteria that determine the active and passive right to vote,  legislation concerning election campaigning, media regulations, financing of the electoral campaigns and standards concerning opinion polls. Manipulation could also concern vote-casting and counting process favorizing the incumbent.

b) Manipulation of vote choice

This dimension deals with the violation of the right of the voters to have access to adequate information about the policy proposals. Most manipulations of vote choice take place during the campaign. If the elections are to be fair, voters must have access to information to make a judgement on its basis, and they must be able to vote according to their political preference.

This component covers the problem of media coverage (unbalanced coverage of electoral campaign; favoring the ruling party/candidate), mishandling of resources (breaching of the regulations governing the use of campaign resources), vote buying and voter intimidation (for example inappropriate military’s involvement in the electoral campaign).

c) Manipulation of the voting act

This dimension deals with the violation of the principle that all votes must have equal weight. The dimension of “effective aggregation” includes the counting and tabulation of votes and their appropriate conversion into seats. This component may include the obstruction of ballot access by potential candidates; the manipulation of voter registration and/or the electoral register; failure to provide adequate polling arrangements; the manipulation of voting (stuffing of the ballot box with false votes; votes of ‘dead souls’), the manipulation of the process of counting and tabulation of votes; misreporting of the results of voting; the obstruction of observer access; maladministration in the adjudication of election related legal disputes.

This categorization of electoral malpractice benchmarks will help structuring the research in its initial phase.

At the same time the first stage of the research will include the working out of the complete list of questions to in-depth interviews and the persons to be interviewed.

In order to have the comprehensive empirical basis for the research with the use of the theoretical framework the second stage will be to analyze the issue of the political regime in Turkey in comparative perspective (looking for similar cases that can be useful in further research) as well as the role of elections in the Turkish political life and political culture – again referring this case to similar cases in Europe and beyond. This topic will be investigated partially through the interviews with the experts on the Turkish elections and democratization process.

First after these theoretical and empirical introductory studies, the main part of the research will start. It will consist of three parts, referring to the already outlined three main components of electoral malpractice and their detailed categories. The research will be aimed at investigating, which of these categories exist in the case of the Turkish elections. The presence of the elements which are not part of the Birch’s components of electoral malpractice can lead to the enrichment of the theoretical framework. Moreover, the analysis will include the explanation of reasons for the electoral manipulation. The initial results of the research will be worked out afterwards and consulted with the Polish experts on Turkey, elections, democratization and political regimes. The conclusions will be published on the project website.

Then further research will be carried out following the suggestions and commentaries of the experts. First, the research will include the reflection in which countries we can observe the similar phenomena than in Turkey. Basing on different data bases and reports (mentioned in the part about methodology) the comparative analysis will be focused first of all on the cases of East European and Latin American countries. Second, the theoretical studies will be developed concerning the concept of the “borderline” regimes and the comprehensive framework of the assessment of the electoral integrity of these regimes. Third, the forecast will be prepared, referring to the paths of changes of regimes depending on the scope of electoral malpractice. The full results of the research will be working out and consulted during a special meeting with the experts, including the Turkish academicians (from the list mentioned in the part about the methodology and interviews).