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US avoids commenting whether Turkey can hold free and fair elections on Sunday

By Ilhan Tanir, Washington, DC

US State Department spokesman Mark Toner, during the daily briefing over the phone on Tuesday, responding Washington Hatti‘s questions regarding the recent OSCE interim report for referendum, has urged Turkish authorities to “ensure political freedom,” free speech and the independence of the judiciary.”

Toner stated: “We consistently urge Turkey at every level to respect and ensure political freedom, freedom of expression, judicial independence, and other fundamental freedoms.”

Many watchdogs and experts came out to question the legitimacy of the referendum by looking at the circumstances in Turkey ahead of referendum.

Toner was asked if the US administration thinks Turkey has conditions to hold “a fair and free elections” following the reference of recent OSCE report which lists “severe limitations for opposition campaign and poses the question whether it’s a possibility for Turkey to hold fair and free elections at this moment.” Toner avoided giving direct assessment of the US administration.

 

When asked the second-biggest opposition party co-chairs have been jailed since November – over a dozen MPs as well as hundreds of other officials, local officials, what is the view of the US administration with regards to Turkey’s current conditions aside from OSCE report, Toner said: “we have candid conversations about the quality of Turkey’s democracy. We firmly believe that freedom of expression, including freedoms of speech and media, needs to be protected.  We believe that political processes need to be transparent, and we believe that political parties need to be able to express their views and get their views out there to the public.”

Toner added: “Again, it’s because we value and respect Turkey’s democracy and democratic tradition [that we make these warnings]. Turkey, as I said, is a strong ally, and we want to see the strongest, most democratic Turkey we possibly can,” he said.

Toner said the U.S. officials have seen the OSCE and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights’ interim report.

“We value the OSCE’s contributions to the promotion of democracy and human rights, and that includes its election observation efforts. We stand firmly behind those efforts throughout the OSCE region. We look forward to the final report after the conclusion of the referendum,” he said.

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