Report on the observation of the presidential election in Turkey - 29.09.2014 - Gülsün Bilgehan, Ayşe Gülsün Bilgehan, CHP Ankara Milletvekili

Report on the observation of the presidential election in Turkey - 29.09.2014

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe

2014 ORDİNARY SESSION-Twenty ninth sitting,Monday,29.09.2014 at 3 p.m.

On " Report on the observation of the presidential election in Turkey"Ms BİLGEHAN (Turkey)*

Colleagues, I congratulate the chair and members of the ad hoc committee, who have done a very professional job with regard to Turkey. The report reflects their care. The election was particularly important. The tradition since the founding of the republic of Turkey, which celebrates its 91st anniversary soon, was for the president of the republic to be elected by the parliament, yet the Turkish election on 10 August allowed the electorate for the first time to elect their president through direct universal suffrage. That will perhaps give the new president a stronger legitimacy, morally speaking, but it does not confer any new powers or prerogatives on him as there is not yet a new constitution. Indeed, the law on the presidential election adopted in 2012 was not aligned to the rest of Turkish law, which leads to some ambiguity in practice.

Finally, the 10 August presidential election was conducted in a rather Turkish way. The processes on polling day were considered to be free and fair according to the values of the Council of Europe. Some 53 million Turks voted in a relatively calm, normal atmosphere, but as the ad hoc committee underlines in its report, an election process is not just about polling day. The members of the committee clearly realised that there was inequality between the three candidates. The prime minister was very much advantaged compared with his two rivals. The funding of the campaign, and the lack of ceiling for that funding, the misuse of administrative resources and the prime minister’s job for electoral purposes, and unfair media coverage all lent grist to the mill of the prime minister, who conducted his campaign without having to leave his post. Whereas the media were supposed to be impartial and balanced in their coverage, the prime minister was omnipresent on all media. The air time given to the other candidates was most unfair. It is strange that the favourite never accepted an invitation to a live debate between the three candidates, despite the other candidates calling upon him to do so. Citizens who live abroad were entitled to vote for the first time, but because of problems that we have read about in the report, only about 10% of them did so. The election was also held right in the middle of the holiday, so the turnout, which is normally very high in Turkey, was lower than it was in many other years. Despite all the advantages that he had, and recognising the weakness of the opposition, the prime minister received only 52% of the vote and only just carried the day in the first round. Once again, I think that the result shows that the president needs to make a big effort to become the leader of all Turkey, which is now very polarised.

About Gülsün Bilgehan

Born in Ankara on 25th of February 1957, Gülsün Bilgehan is the granddaughter of İsmet İnönü, the 2nd President of Turkey who was among the founders of the Republic.

A graduate of Department of International Relations of Paris Institute of Political Studies, she was elected as the Member of Parliament for Ankara from Republican People’s Party, in 2002.

Meanwhile, she served in Council of Europe of which Turkey is a founding member and as the Chairperson of Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).

She received “Woman Writer of the Year Award” by United Women's Organizations of İstanbul and “Abdi İpekçi Award” for the two volume books titled “Mevhibe” depicting Turkish War of Independence and the establishment of Turkish Republic from the point of view of her grandmother Mevhibe İnönü.

She was awarded the “Pro Merito” medal of PACE and “Legion D’Honneur” of  France.

She was reelected as the Member of Parliament for Ankara from Republican People’s Party in 2011 and assigned the Chairperson of Socialist Women Working Group at PACE.

In January 2015, she was reelected as the Chairperson of Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination and held the title for one more term.  She was assigned the Chairperson of Sub-Committee on Media and Information Society of PACE in March 2016 and re-elected for a second term in January 2017. 

She remains the member of Turkish Delegation of PACE.

On 7th of June and 1st of November 2015 general elections, Bilgehan was reelected as the Member of Parliament for Ankara from Republican People’s Party. She was nominated the candidate for the Speaker of Turkish Grand National Assembly by unanimously of the members of parliament of Republican People’s Party.  

Married with three children, Bilgehan speaks advanced level of French and English.