A lot of fake news is circulating shortly before the presidential run-off election in Turkey between Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Kemal Kilicdaroglu.
Turkey’s runoff election could turn into a neck-and-neck race between Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Kemal Kilicdaroglu. Some politicians and citizens see this as an opportunity to influence the election in the short term with fakes on the Internet.
Before the regular elections, President Erdogan himself published a manipulated video about his fiercest competitor, linking him to the militant Kurdish PKK. In a television interview, he said that to a certain extent he didn’t care whether the video was manipulated or not. And supporters of Kilicdaroglu also spread disinformation in order to win the election. We checked three recent claims just before the runoff.
Do voters who voted for Erdogan in the first ballot no longer have to vote?
Claim: “If you voted for Erdogan in the first ballot, your vote is still valid. You don’t have to go to the elections again,” claims a Turkish social media influencer in a video on Twitter and TikTok.
DW fact check: Incorrect.
The video has over four million clicks on Twitter alone, and over 35,000 on TikTok. The influencer with the nickname “VartoLu” claims that the votes for Erdogan from the first ballot would also count in the runoff. It is therefore no longer necessary for Erdogan voters to go to the run-off election. Citizens who would vote for Kilicdaroglu would have to vote again. This claim is wrong.
The run-off election on May 28 will decide whether Erdogan remains President of Turkey or Kilicdaroglu replaces him. All citizens who wish to take part in the election must go to the polls again. The law on presidential elections in Turkey clearly states that the candidate with the majority of the votes in the run-off election wins. Some of the election processes are also described on an official government website for the election. And there, too, there is no mention of votes from the first round of voting counting in the runoff. Votes from the first round of voting definitely do not count in a runoff election.
“VartoLu”, who circulated the video with the false claim, describes himself on his Facebook page as a comedian living in Paris. The video could have been meant as satire, but was not marked as such. The video’s virality on Twitter as well as on TikTok shows that many users could believe the content.
Are these alleged election posters from Kilicdaroglu real?
Claim: Selahattin Demirtas, who is currently in prison and former presidential competitor of Erdogan, will be released, according to an alleged election poster by Kilicdaroglu, which AKP politician Erdem Kertisci circulated on Twitter. Another says that the YPG is not a terrorist organization.
DW fact check: Fake.
The alleged election posters look deceptively real: the blue color is similar to that of the real election posters, the photo on it also shows Kilicdaroglu and the stamp with the inscription “Decide” also matches the one on the real election posters. But even a simple reverse image search via TinEye shows that the election posters are fake and were placed on a photo using an image editing program.
The alleged slogans are also false, as shown by a look at the presidential candidate’s website, which shows his real posters. On it you can see the actual slogans, such as “Our borders will be protected”, “Syrians will leave our country” or “The terror will come to an end”. In addition, the color of Kilicdaroglu’s jacket is different from that on the manipulated election posters, on which the candidate’s photo was mirrored. The posted alleged election posters are therefore a clear fake.
Fake posters spread explosive political statements
In terms of content, they are explosive because, on the one hand, it is claimed that Kilicdaroglu wants to release Selahattin Demirtas from prison. Demirtas has been in a maximum security prison since 2016 and is considered one of the most important opposition figures in Turkey. He is part of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which is stigmatized as a “terror party”. There are numerous lawsuits against HDP MPs for alleged support of the PKK.
On the other hand, the fake election posters claim that Kilicdaroglu believes the YPG is not a terrorist organization. The YPG is a Syrian Kurdish militia. The Turkish government sees the party as a parallel structure to the PKK, which poses a threat to Turkey’s national security and unity.
Is Turkish TV channel A Haber broadcasting misleading images of ballot papers?
Claim: The Turkish broadcaster A Haber is said to have explained the upcoming runoff election in Turkey with the following picture of a ballot paper: On the one hand there is the option to vote for Erdogan, who is also shown in a photo, on the other a ” other candidates” without a picture, users write on Twitter.
DW fact check: Correct.
According to research on the station’s YouTube channel, these misleading ballots were actually shown on a May 20 TV show by A Haber. First, a sample ballot with the two names of the runoff candidates Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu was only shown at the beginning of the program (archived here) for a few seconds, and then Kilicdaroglu’s name and photo with “another candidate” and just a silhouette for the rest of the shipment exchanged.
The program explains how the runoff will work – but only with Erdogan’s photo and name. The real runoff ballot looks like this: On the left is a photo of Erdogan and his full name, on the right is a photo of Kilicdaroglu and his full name. Below that there are two circles in which voting can take place.
The Turkish press agency Bianet also reported on the incident. When DW asked why the name and photo of the presidential candidate were no longer shown, broadcaster A Haber did not respond. The television station is considered to be close to Erdogan.