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Hastily issued IDs will enable 2.3 million to cast their votes Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that he earnestly wishes the Supreme Election Board (YSK) decision to ban headscarves for observers of the March 29 local elections should be reversed because the observers cannot be required to conform to the state's appearance and clothing regulations. The YSK is continuing its highly criticized stance with respect to Sunday's election. Its latest decision was to prohibit women wearing headscarves from working as observers in the election. The government of Turkey has banned wearing headscarves for civil servants when working in public institutions, considered the public sphere. "What kind of a public sphere is this? They are representatives of political parties and not working for the state. How could you take away their rights? Unfortunately we are putting obstacles before our democracy that way," Erdogan said while in Bartin, in reaction to the YSK headscarf decision. The Association of Human Rights and Solidarity for Oppressed Peoples (MAZLUMDER) petitioned the Council of State to intervene and annul the decision. MAZLUM-DER Secretary-General Emre Yurtalan said banning wearing the headscarf for observers is not acceptable. "The elections should be redone if this decision is in effect on Sunday," he added. Istanbul Today's Zaman with wires A recently announced Supreme Election Board (YSK) requirement that national identification numbers appear on voters' identity cards has caused citizens to rush to Population and Citizenship Directorate offices around the country, with approximately 2.3 million voters receiving new ID cards. But 1.8 million potential voters still lack the required ID cards, meaning that at least 1.8 million citizens may not be able to vote. As debate over the regulation heated up, the YSK announced last week that citizens who do not have identification numbers on their ID cards would be able to vote by showing their ID cards along with a copy of their identity registry document or an official document carrying their ID number and an embossed stamp or hologram. Many breathed a sigh of relief after the YSK provided a solution to the issue, but citizens who flocked to Population and Citizenship Directorate offices to have identification numbers added to their ID cards following the YSK's initial announcement criticized the YSK for taking too long to address the problem. Others remained doubtful about the YSK's solution and said they still wanted to have ID numbers added to their ID cards in order to avoid last-minute problems at polling stations. Population and Citizenship Directorate offices will remain open as long as polling stations are open on the day of the local elections, March 29. Handicapped face additional hurdles People with disabilities have come together in protest of a decision made by the YSK, which chose not to send voter information cards to approximately 400,000 handicapped people on the grounds that they are not selfsufficient and therefore cannot vote. Lokman Ayva, a deputy from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) who himself has a disability, said they had taken initiative to have the YSK ruling changed but had been unable to reach the president of the YSK to voice their concerns. "We don't have an alternative other than democracy. We want to elect those who serve our needs, and we want to remove those who do not. We can be elected but cannot vote," said Ayva. He added that the reason given by provincial election boards for the YSK decision was that because people with disabilities designate official guardians to simplify some of their daily activities, such as paying bills, they are not eligible to vote in the March 29 local elections. Lutfii Vural, president of the Association for the Handicapped People of Ordu, said the YSK could not make such a decision based on that argument. "We conducted an investigation, and we could not find any document that says, 'Those who have an official guardian cannot vote'," said Vural. Hayri Demirbat, 65, who has a muscular disease and has difficulty walking on the streets by himself, has designated his wife as his guardian. He appealed to a court after receiving a notice from the provincial election board that "people who have guardians cannot vote." Demirbat said his disability was physical, not mental and that he was still a citizen of Turkey. Moreover, Ayva said the YSK was responsible for accommodating people with disabilities so that they would be able to vote with ease. "Handicapped people should be provided appropriate facilities to cast their votes," he added. Istanbul Today's Zaman with wires 25.03.2009 TODAYS ZAMAN

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