Two days after Turkey’s historic referendum, the opposition parties do not show up conceding to accept the result, 51.3% of Yes vote, a slim margin of victory for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and calling for the cancellation of the vote.
In a watershed moment, a slight majority of the voters endorsed Mr. Erdogan’s bid for a presidential system, spurring wide-ranging implications for the echo chamber of Turkey’s political realm.
Turkey’s 200-year history of political modernity has now suffered an existential setback, with constitutional amendment unwinding century-old components of the republican system.
But the battle is not over yet, despite President Erdogan’s celebration of victory, however thin the margin was, and his pledge to move forward in a sign of dismissing emerging opposition outcry.
On Tuesday, Turkey’s Parliament extended the state of emergency for another 3 months, cementing the government’s firm grip on the social and political landscape.
Tens of thousands of people swarmed streets for a 2nd consecutive night to protest referendum result which they regard as manipulated and rigged at a considerable level, enough to alter the entire outcome.
— Eda Özbey (@eda_ozbey) April 18, 2017
No voters in 14 big cities took to streets to protest election result.
— 'Hayal Tamircileri' (@HayalTamir) April 17, 2017
People vowed to fight until their demand is taken into account. In Istanbul, there were scenes reminiscent of Gezi protests.
— Ferzad Penaber (@PenaberFerzad) April 18, 2017
On Tuesday, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chairman Kemal Kilicdaroglu said his party has not recognized the referendum result, accusing Supreme Election Board (YSK) of manipulating the outcome with a controversial, last-minute ruling.
Though the opposition leader offered a sober and conceding speech on Sunday night, revealing an acceptance of defeat on his facial expression, he struck a rebellious tone on Tuesday. After facing intra-party criticism over his meek response, Mr. Kilicdaroglu appeared resurgent, displayed a willingness to fight back. He called for the re-run the entire vote.
“With this illegal decision, ballot box councils (officials at polling stations) were misled into believing that the use of unstamped ballots was appropriate,” the Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TBB) said.
“Our regret is not over the outcome of the referendum, but because of the desire to overlook clear and harsh violations of the law that have the law that the potential to impact the results,” Reuters quoted the TBB statement.
Hundreds of people filed petition to YSK, calling for a new vote. But President Erdogan had already turned the result into a political reality, warning against any attempt to challenge his victory. He urged international organizations and Western countries to show respect for the vote, and for the will of Turkish people.
He reserved particular venom for a group of international observers who said the contest took place on an “uneven playing field,” and said referendum fell short of international standards.
The Turkish president called on OSCE to know its place, and accused the West of preserving a “crusader’s mentality” toward Turkey.
Alev Korun, an Austrian member of the Council’s observer team, also questioned YSK decision.
“The highest election authority decided, however, — as it were, against the law — that envelopes without official stamp should be admitted,” she said in an interview to ORF Radio.
YSK’s allowance of counting ballots without official stamps constitutes the centerpiece of an ongoing political turmoil, spurring still ensuing streets protests by No voters across the country.
The election board’s history is abundant with ample precedents over the rejection of votes in many polling stations in past elections.
In 2014 local elections, the YSK even canceled municipal elections in Guroymak district of the eastern province of Bitlis after objection from ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) over a dispute regarding ballots without official seals. The municipal election was held again after AKP’s persistent demand.
On Sunday, the YSK held a meeting on 10:00 a.m. and decided to reject unstamped ballots. But after an AKP representative’s objection, the board again convened around 12:00 p.m. and ruled for recognition of ballots without official seals or envelopes.
— Diken (@DikenComTr) April 18, 2017
The critics point to this contradiction in Sunday’s referendum when YSK, according to CHP and Kurdish political party, decided to accept as many as 2.5 million unstamped ballots as valid.
Evet oyu: 24.935.426
Hayır oyu: 23.616.345
Tutanak altına alınan mühürsüz oy: 2.521.893#HayırKazandıYSKÇaldı
— HAYIR PLATFORMU (@HAYIRPLATFORM) April 18, 2017
No Platform said on Twitter that unstamped ballots are enough to change the entire result. The difference between Yes and No votes are 1.319.081. And the Electoral Board accepted 2.521.893 unstamped ballots as legitimate votes. Almost all of them are Yes votes. With simple arithmetic, if they are annulled, it would give No a majority against Yes votes.
Both CHP, election observers from HDP, and activists cited many cases of irregularities.
Former Diyarbakir Mayor and HDP lawmaker Osman Baydemir rejected the government argument that Kurds shifted to AKP’s Yes camp in the referendum across southeastern Turkey. He said in many places voters went to polling stations under the shadow of guns, citing a case in a village in Mus province as a clear-cut example of threatening No voters.
An Erdogan supporter R.I. wrote on his Facebook page that he secured that all 305 votes in Dagdibi polling station will be Yes votes.
In another case of irregularity, all villages in Akcakale district of southeastern province of Sanliurfa, ballots are blanket Yes votes. An official at the polling station shared the photo of results.
Şanlıurfa, tulum evet sandıkları. Bundan daha iyi hırsızlık kanıtı olamaz. Tüm köyler tüm mevcutla Evet demiş! Ah muhtarlar ah! pic.twitter.com/74ZHUMuMvS
— Mehmet Ali Çelebi (@tgmcelebi) April 18, 2017
Turkey went to referendum under the state of emergency. Across southeastern Turkey, tens of thousands of displaced people were unable to vote because they lacked a fixed address.
1 Kasım'da Cizre'nin seçmen sayısı 66 bin idi.
Sonra şehir yıkıldı, binlerce insan göç etti.
16 Nisan'da seçmen sayısı nasıl 70 bin oldu? pic.twitter.com/wIyqp7gU4k
— Amed Dicle (@ameddicleT) April 17, 2017
Journalist Amed Dicle cited a weird case in war-torn Cizre, a town of southeastern province of Sirnak. He said there were 66,000 eligible voters in Cizre during last parliamentary elections, on Nov. 1, in 2015. Then fighting broke out between Kurdish insurgents and the Turkish troops, the town was destroyed and thousands of people moved to elsewhere. It’s population dramatically decreased. But on April 16, the number of voters mysteriously jumped to 70,000. How would that happen? he asked.
In an unverified video which went viral on social media, a man stamps Yes on dozens of empty ballots in a place in southeastern Turkey.
Babamın arkadaşının bizzat çektiği video! pic.twitter.com/gSvoEH7UXu
— zeynepnaz (@ZCabbara) April 16, 2017
In a district of Sanliurfa, No votes came out as less than 1 percent while HDP won more than half of the votes during Nov. 1 parliamentary elections in 2015. The sudden evaporation of presence of government opponents did not appear as convincing, the HDP told media, citing widespread irregularities and allegations of fraud across the region.
AKP-loyal media celebrated the results from the region, pointing to a slight jump for support for the ruling party while HDP saw its standing took a hit. But HDP explains the slight setback for its party with irregularities, the government crackdown on its party members, and displacement of Kurdish voters. The loss of support did not take place in natural circumstances, the party has claimed.
EU Calls For Transparent Investigation Into Fraud Claims
— European Commission (@EU_Commission) April 18, 2017
European Commission, the executive body of the European Union, has called for a transparent investigation into allegations of the fraud.
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said President Erdogan must answer significant imbalance in the referendum.
“It is important to quickly establish whether the vote has been fair and clean,” de Maizière told German media.
A group of international observers offered a bleak assessment of the conditions that characterized the referendum.
“In general, the referendum did not live up to Council of Europe standards. The legal framework was inadequate for the holding of a genuinely democratic process,” said Cezar Florin Preda, Head of the delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
“The referendum took place in a political environment in which fundamental freedoms essential to a genuinely democratic process were curtailed under the state of emergency, and the two sides did not have equal opportunities to make their case to the voters,” observer Tana de Zulueta said.
The referendum plunged Turkey-EU relations into a state of ambiguity, with President Erdogan voicing complete disregard for the prolonged negotiation process, viewing EU not appealing as it once was.
The Turkish president said Turkey would hold a referendum on whether to proceed or break with EU completely. His pledge to reinstate death penalty will inflict a final blow to already frayed relations.
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