Referendum outcome fails to unite country

Dunya Executive - - POLITICS -

Tensions are continuing in the week since Turks said “yes” to changing the constitution. On April 16, voters were asked whether to accept or reject an 18-article reform package put forward by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) that would transform Turkey’s parliamentary system into a powerful executive presidency. With all of the 47.5 million votes counted, the “yes” camp won a narrow victory with 51.4 percent.

Although polls forecast a win, the final results were surprisingly close as many assumed a wider margin of victory. So the results have done little to relieve both camps. The opposition cried foul over a decision by the election board to count unstamped ballots and demanded a recount of at least 37 percent of votes. “No” campaigners claimed they have faced intimidation and threats of violence, while independent monitors say was an uneven contest. Turkey’s Foreign Ministry denounced the observers’ criticism that the referendum fell below international standards, saying their remarks lacked objectivity and impartiality. “Saying the referendum fell below international standards is unacceptable,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that previous politically charged comments from Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) monitors showed the team arrived in Turkey with prejudice and disregarded the principles of objectivity and impartiality.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) called on the electoral board on Tuesday to annul the vote because unstamped ballot papers were included. Turkey’s pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) also filed an appeal to the country’s electoral board on Wednesday for the annulment of the referendum, saying some voters had been unable to cast their ballots in private.

However, Turkey’s Supreme Electoral Board (YSK) rejected on Wednesday appeals from the main opposition parties to annul the result that grants Erdogan sweeping new powers, the board said in a statement. “The HDP, CHP and Vatan Party’s appeals regarding the April 16 referendum were discussed separately and as a result of evaluations, the appeals were rejected with 10 votes against and 1 vote in favor,” the YSK said. After the decision, people in at least 14 cities across the country went out to protest the decision. Thirty-eight of them have been taken into custody so far while the demonstrations continue.

The last move came from the CHP on Friday. “We are filing a claim to the Council of State today for the cancellation of the YSK’s transaction regarding the acceptance of unsealed ballot papers,” CHP Deputy Chairman Bulent Tezcan said in a written statement.

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