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Nationalist Turkish party proposes prison terms for ‘misleading’ polling results

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Vice Chairman of Turkey’s Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Mevlüt Karakaya has announced a bill calling for between two and five years’ imprisonment for pollsters who present “mistaken, misleading or deficient information” with the purpose of influencing public opinion, the Diken news website reported on Thursday.

The bill calls such misrepresentation a “crime of manipulation” and includes fines as well.

Most polls underestimated votes garnered by the MHP in the June 2018 general election and the results of the concurrent presidential election.

MHP Chairman Devlet Bahçeli called the pollsters who claimed his party’s vote would decrease to 5-6 percent from the previous 10 percent “undignified” before the June 24 general election.

The bill regulating pollsters was drafted by the party about a month later.

Pollsters will need to document the party financing their research, for whom the research is done and the amount of money used for the research, according to the bill.

Pollsters will also be obliged to intervene if a customer shares a doubtful research result independent from its context if the bill becomes law.

The bill prohibits keeping the results of a survey after its completion. “The data will have to be destroyed to avoid the use of the same data in a different a poll or for different purposes in the future,” Karakaya said.

Pollsters and polling companies that do not abide by the regulations will have to pay 10 times a pollster’s salary as a fine.

Most polling companies use Turkish Statistics Institute (TurkStat) data to separate surveys into age groups and geographical areas.

A face-to-face interview is the most common survey method in Turkey as Turkish citizens are likely to be insecure about sharing their political opinions via the Internet or on the telephone.

Hakan Bayrakçı, head researcher for Turkish polling company Sonar, said they provide the margin of error in every survey and that it depends on the scope of the poll as well as the trust respondents feel for pollsters, in an interview on a 5N1K newscast before the elections.

“Participants might also change their minds after the survey is taken but before the election,” said Adil Gür, the owner of another polling company.

Allegations of electoral fraud and violence have been rampant in Turkey’s most recent elections.

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