Marianne Mikko (SDE), Head of the Estonian Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) is set to partake in PACE observation mission at the early presidential and parliamentary elections in Turkey on Monday, 24 June. She is to do so at the southeastern city of Diyarbakır, together with Jaak Madison (EKRE) who will be based in Erzurum in eastern Turkey.
The early presidential and parliamentary elections in Turkey take place nearly 18 months ahead of the main elections.
Ms. Mikko and Mr. Madison's stint as observers, as reported in an Estonian Parliament (Riigikogu) press release, take place against the backdrop of greater restrictions on the media as well as political opposition in Turkey.
Constitutional changes in Turkey
Since last year's constitutional reforms, the President, currently Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, will have greater executive powers, with the office of Prime Minster, currently Binali Yıldırım, being abolished altogether.
The parliamentary system of government will also be replaced by a presidential system.
A state of emergency has been in force in Turkey since the attempted coup in 2016 and remains so throughout the elections.
"Media channels are being closed in Turkey, and businessmen who support the government buy them up. Covering the events in the country in the web is also becoming more and more complicated," Ms. Mikko said.
"Many members of parliament belonging to the opposition have been arrested, including the presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtaş [of the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party, arrested in 2016 - ed.], as well as several journalists and human rights activists being detained," she went on, highlighting the delicate nature of observing the current elections.
Pivotal role of Turkey
However Ms. Mikko was keen to stress Turkey's significant role in Europe and the world.
"Turkey is an extremely important country for Europe,'' she said.
''Therefore, it is my wish that Ankara will not deviate from the principles of democracy and the rule of law...I know that there are many democrats in Turkey. So the prospect of democratic forces clinching the elections there cannot be dismissed," Mikko said.
Jaak Madison also noted how crucial the PACE observation was to Turkish and international affairs.
"Turkey amended its Constitution last year, such that after the coming elections, it will essentially become a sultanate where the incumbent president Erdoğan will have absolute power," he said.
Mr. Madison added that observations were important in Turkish-EU relations, particularly strained at the moment following the apparent political crackdown.
The 33-member delegation of the PACE work alongside observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).
Ahead of the elections and their observation, the delegation is due to meet with the Chairman and members of two of the most important bodies in the Turkish political and media structures, namely the Supreme Electoral Council of Turkey (YSK) and the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK ), as well as other representatives of the media and civil society.
Editor: Andrew Whyte