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Forensic analysis of Turkish elections in 2017–2018

With a majority of `Yes’ votes in the Constitutional Referendum of 2017, Turkey continued its drift towards an 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.

Here we report the results of an election forensic analysis of recent Turkish elections to clarify to what extent it is plausible that these voting irregularities were present and able to influence the outcome of the referendum. We apply statistical forensics tests to identify the specific nature of the alleged 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.

For the 2017 Constitutional Referendum we find systematic and highly significant statistical support for the presence of both ballot stuffing and voter rigging. In 11% of stations we find signs for ballot stuffing with a standard deviation (uncertainty of ballot stuffing probability) of 2.7% (4 sigma event). Removing such ballot-stuffing-characteristic anomalies from the data would tip the overall balance from `No’ to a majority of `Yes’ votes. The 2017 election was followed by early elections in 2018 to directly vote for a new president who would now be head of state and government. We find statistical irregularities in the 2018 presidential and parliamentary elections similar in size and direction to those in 2017. These findings validate that our results unveil systematic and potentially even fraudulent biases that require further attention in order to combat electoral malpractices.


P. Klimek, R. Jimenez, M. Hidalgo, A. Hinteregger, S. Thurner, Forensic analysis of Turkish elections in 2017–2018, PLoS ONE 13 (10) (2018) e0204975

Peter Klimek, Faculty member at the Complexity Science Hub

Peter Klimek

Stefan Thurner @ Franziska Liehl, President of the Complexity Science Hub

Stefan Thurner

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