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Cablegate: $50 and a Free Lunch: The Perks of Helping Run A

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Dianne Wampler 08/01/2007 09:45:02 PM From DB/Inbox: Dianne Wampler

Cable
Text:


UNCLAS ISTANBUL 00694

SIPDIS
CX:
ACTION: POL
INFO: CONS TSR PMA ECON DCM AMB RAO FCS PA MGT DAO

DISSEMINATION: POL /1
CHARGE: PROG

VZCZCAYO838
RR RUEHAK
DE RUEHIT #0694 2130621
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 010621Z AUG 07
FM AMCONSUL ISTANBUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7353
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

UNCLAS ISTANBUL 000694

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/SE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL TU
SUBJECT: $50 AND A FREE LUNCH: THE PERKS OF HELPING RUN A
TURKISH ELECTION


1. (U) Summary. Unlike most voters, who were in and out of
their polling places in five minutes, the Consulate bank
teller spent all day at his polling station, helping to
administer the official voting. His experience gives a
glimpse of civil society's contribution to Turkey's
parliamentary elections. End Summary.

2. (U) While the majority of the officials selected by the
Supreme Election Board (SEB) are teachers and other civil
servants, the government also asked large private companies
to help. Fortis Bank selected our teller, who received the
equivalent of $50, a free lunch, and the following day off as
compensation. He and other lucky winners were given two or
three briefing sessions before arriving at their polling
stations, generally a school. Under the supervision of a
senior official (in his case this was a teacher who had
monitored previous elections), he was assigned to a
particular ballot box intended to be used by no more than 400
voters. Each polling place had anywhere from five to twenty
boxes.

3. (U) After voting themselves when they arrived at 7:30am,
the monitors were expected to remain at their stations all
day, checking identification, distributing ballots and
envelopes, and making sure that each voter went into the
voting booth alone. Even those assisting older voters were
prohibited from entering the booth. Each political party was
allowed to have an official observer on hand, but many of
them chose not to send representatives. A Consulate FSN
noted representatives from the Justice and Development Party
(AKP) and the Republican People's Party (CHP) at his polling
place in Istanbul,s third district. Other parties were
allowed to come and go throughout the day, and when AKP opted
not to provide lunch for the officials at the teller's
station, Saadet Party volunteered.

4. (U) In spite of an 86% turnout rate at the teller's
ballot box (260 of the 301 registered voters came), it was
rarely busy. Even during the morning peak there were never
more than four people waiting in line. Although the polls
closed at 5:00pm, the monitors were there counting the votes
until 9:00pm. The teller's tabulation was complete by
6:00pm, but official procedures required monitors to wait
until all of the boxes from the site were counted before they
could leave.

5. (U) SEB officials helped record the votes during the
counting process. Each envelope was opened and the ballot
was held up for everyone in the room to see. Two officials
then separately recorded each vote on papers previously
printed with each party's name, so that they could check the
accuracy of their recordings. The vote count was entered
into a computer provided by the SEB and then the ballots were
sealed in bags and transported by bus to the district's
Election Board Center where they remained until the results
are finalized on July 30.

6. (U) Voting is compulsory in Turkey but serving as a
polling official is not. Our teller,s willingness to do so,
along with others like him, help explain the rapid vote tally
on election night despite 84% turnout (42 million votes) and
Turkey,s reputation for fair, well-organized elections.
OUDKIRK

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