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Election forensic analysis of the Turkish Constitutional Referendum 2017

Peter Klimek, Raul Jimenez, Manuel Hidalgo, Abraham Hinteregger, Stefan Thurner

posted on 03 July 2017

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With a majority of 'Yes' votes in the Constitutional Referendum of 2017, Turkey continues its transition from democracy to autocracy. By the will of the Turkish people, this referendum transferred practically all executive power to president Erdogan. However, the referendum was confronted with a substantial number of allegations of electoral misconducts and irregularities, ranging from state coercion of 'No' supporters to the controversial validity of unstamped ballots. In this note we report the results of an election forensic analysis of the 2017 referendum to clarify to what extent these voting irregularities were present and if they were able to influence the outcome of the referendum. We specifically apply novel statistical forensics tests to further identify the specific nature of electoral malpractices. In particular, we test whether the data contains fingerprints for ballot-stuffing (submission of multiple ballots per person during the vote) and voter rigging (coercion and intimidation of voters). Additionally, we perform tests to identify numerical anomalies in the election results. We find systematic and highly significant support for the presence of both, ballot-stuffing and voter rigging. In 6% of stations we find signs for ballot-stuffing with an error (probability of ballot-stuffing not happening) of 0.15% (3 sigma event). The influence of these vote distortions were large enough to tip the overall balance from 'No' to a majority of 'Yes' votes.