Election officials stamped ballots
Annul referendum, calls opposition
Emergency extended in Turkey
A Journal of People report
The protesting people claimed the referendum was effectively rigged by the government, which introduced changes to the voting procedure as the referendum was about to commence.
About 2,000 people waving red banners with “The “No” is not finished” written over them took to the streets in Kadikoy, in Istanbul’s Asian quarter, shouting “We are shoulder to shoulder against fascism.”
The procession headed to the office of Turkey’s High Electoral Board, which found itself at the center of post-referendum outrage by the ‘NO’ camp.
The fraud allegations stem from a decision by the board on Sunday to count as valid some 1.5 million ballots with no official stamp thus inciting anger of the opposition and drawing criticism from the international observers.
Some 13 people were reportedly detained as violence broke out at an anti-Erdogan rally in resort city of Antalya.
Irregularities: claims opposition
Turkey’s main opposition party has vowed to take widespread irregularities in the referendum to the Constitutional Court and European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), repeating its accusations against the election watchdog and calling on the Supreme Election Board (YSK) to annul the referendum results.
“The only way to end ongoing discussions over the referendum’s legitimacy is to annul it. What is necessary is the annulment of this referendum,” a deputy leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), Bülent Tezcan, told reporters at a press conference on April 17.
Tezcan said they were preparing their files to apply to the YSK, which agreed to accept unsealed ballot papers as valid halfway through voting day, for the annulment of the referendum, vowing that they would also apply to the Constitutional Court and the ECHR if necessary.
The deputy leader also presented video footage to the reporters, which he said was a proof of the widespread fraud. The footage showed election officials stamping ballots after the ballot boxes were opened and counting started.
“This referendum will take its place in the dark pages of history with its open voting but secret counting. The YSK did not and cannot stage a safe election,” Tezcan said. “This referendum will always be remembered as illegitimate.”
The CHP accused the YSK of deeming unsealed ballot papers as valid even though the Election Law forbids such practice.
The Turkish government has decided to extend a state of emergency for another three months upon the recommendation of the National Security Board (MGK), a day after the referendum.
“The state of emergency is not an issue of fantasy for Turkey or a measure to ease the hands of the government,” Numan Kurtulmuş, a spokesman for the government and deputy prime minister, told reporters after a cabinet meeting late on April 17. Kurtulmuş said the cabinet approved the advice of the MGK for the extension of the state of emergency.
Turkey declared a state of emergency on July 20, 2016, in an ostensible bid to fight against the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ), which has been blamed for the coup.
Law contradicted, says observers
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The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which oversaw the referendum, lambasted the decision to change the rules last-minute, arguing that it had “significantly changed the ballot validity criteria, undermining an important safeguard and contradicting the law.”
Besides the controversy with the unstamped ballots, which the Turkish government blamed on purely technical issues, the referendum failed to meet the standards of a “genially democratic” one, largely due to the continuing state of emergency that allows government to limit freedom of assembly and other civil rights.
“The 16 April constitutional referendum took place on an unlevel playing field and the two sides of the campaign did not have equal opportunities,” the OSCE said in its preliminary conclusions while the head of PACE delegation Cezar Florin Preda said that the “referendum did not live up to Council of Europe standards.”
Meanwhile, the Turkish leader brushed off the criticism, saying that he “did not see, hear or acknowledge” OSCE reports and advised them to not meddle into Turkish internal matters.
Erdogan lambasted the OSCE’s unfavorable estimate of the referendum’s conduct by the government. “The crusader mentality in the West and its servants at home has attacked us,” he added.
Erdogan told his supporters gathered in front of the presidential palace in Ankara on Monday: The EU membership talks are no longer a priority to Ankara so it does not care if they stop altogether.
He hinted that the intervention into Syria should be viewed as one of many more military operations to come.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called on the Turkish authorities to “seek respectful dialogue with all political social forces in the country.”
Changes in voting procedure against law: International observers
Turkey’s Supreme Election Board’s (YSK) decision to deem unsealed ballots valid in the referendum had lifted significant assurances and that it was against the law, according to international observers.
Head of the delegations from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) held a press conference in Ankara on April 17 to brief their observations about the referendum process.
“Late changes in counting procedures removed an important safeguard,” said Cezar Florin Preda, the head of the PACE delegation, referring to a move by the election authorities to allow voting documents without an official stamp.
“The legal framework… remained inadequate for the holding of a genuinely democratic referendum,” the delegations said in a joint statement.
OSCE/ODIHR Delegation Chair Tana de Zulueta said changes in the vote-counting procedure had lifted significant assurances and that it was against the law.
Some of the OSCE observers were not allowed to invigilate the vote-counting process, the observer said.
Turkey’s referendum took place on an “unlevel playing field,” the observers said.
“The two sides of the campaign did not have equal opportunities. Voters were not provided with impartial information about key aspects of the reform and civil society organizations were not able to participate,” the missions’ statement read.
“Under the state of emergency put in place after the July 2016 failed coup attempt, fundamental freedoms essential to a genuinely democratic process were curtailed,” the statement read.
The Limited Referendum Observation Mission will release its report on the referendum results within eight weeks.