Turkey’s top electoral authority on Wednesday rejected appeals by the opposition parties to annul the referendum littered with widespread irregularities and allegations of substantial fraud.
On Sunday, a slight majority of voters, 51.3 percent, gave their blessing to a complete overhaul of Turkey’s near century-old political system, ushering in an executive presidency, bestowing unchecked powers on the presidential office.
The narrow victory gave President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sweeping new powers, undoing the central pillars of the parliamentary form of governance endowed in the republican system.
But allegations of nation-wide fraud, a last-minute controversial ruling by Supreme Election Council (YSK) cast an implacable doubt over the legitimacy of the vote, spurring street protests across the country, prompting the main opposition to appeal to the electoral authority to review the entire vote.
With an overwhelming majority of 10 to 1, members of YSK rejected petitions on Wednesday. But the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) vowed to pursue a legal challenge.
At the core of the political dispute over vote was a decision by the YSK to allow ballots without official seals to be counted as valid, a move that swung the pendulum for President Erdogan’s Yes camp.
CHP and People’s Democracy Party (HDP) claim as many as 2.5 million ballots without official stamps were counted as valid votes. Their appeal, however, was rejected after a 7-hour meeting by YSK, which has found itself at the crosshair of public wrath.
As recently as April 12, the YSK distributed official brochures about the voting procedure and clearly underlining that ballots without official seals will not be accepted.
The last-minute turnaround sparked wild accusations and fierce debates seeking to untangle the reason behind the change in YSK.
After YSK’s rejection of opposition demand, CHP Deputy Chairman Bulent Tezcan said his party would take its appeal to Constitutional Court or the European Court of Human Rights.
“This is a serious legitimacy crisis. We will employ all legal ways available,” Reuters quoted Mr. Tezcan as saying.
On Tuesday, in a surprise meeting, President Erdogan met with Chief Justice of Constitutional Court Zuhdu Arslan at Presidential Palace in Ankara.
It is far from clear whether Constitutional Court would reverse YSK’s decision given entrenched political pressure over the top court. Two of its former members have been imprisoned in the post-coup crackdown, and it faces regular political fire from Mr. Erdogan who abhors any legal challenge to his power.
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