A day after U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s call to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to offer a congratulation for referendum victory, White House revisited the nature of the call and said it was not an endorsement of the referendum results.
Mr. Trump became the 1st leader in the Western world to congratulate the Turkish president on the election results, while the Turkish opposition was still contesting the result, urging the Supreme Election Board (YSK) either to recount or cancel the vote.
But the White House reframed the nature of the call on Tuesday.
Speaking with reporters aboard Air Force One on Tuesday, principal deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded negatively when asked by journalists whether Mr. Trump’s call signaled an endorsement of President Erdogan’s push for more power.
“That wasn’t the purpose of the call,” Ms. Sanders said. “And that’s certainly not the position of the president, and of course he supports democracy and would hope for that.”
“But at the same time, the president’s No.1 priority is protecting Americans, keeping Americans safe, and sometimes we’re going to have to work with other countries and some of our NATO partners in order to do that.”
She also said the White House expects from OSCE election monitoring commission to come up with a comprehensive report.
“And we certainly want them to do everything that they would normally do in that process and make a determination and put out a full report,” Ms. Sanders added.
“And again, the purpose of the president’s call yesterday was not to discourage that but simply to talk about some of the things, like Syria, where they can work together,” she said in a transcript released by the White House.
She defended the Trumps administration’s decision to work together with Turkey in the Middle East regardless of the fact that whether it is a democratic or undemocratic country, citing security challenges and the need for cooperation against terrorism.
Mr. Trump’s call came shortly after State Department and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s remarks that the U.S. will deliver a comment after OSCE’s report.
— CNN Tonight (@CNNTonight) April 19, 2017
President Erdogan won the Sunday vote with a slim margin of victory, fulfilling his lifelong political ambition toward a powerful presidency.
Critics see the constitutional change will bestow near-dictatorial powers on presidential office, will free Mr. Erdogan of any checks and balances, a step that accelerates the demise of Turkey’s already battered democracy.
On Sunday, only 51.3% of the voters backed Mr. Erdogan despite unrivaled powers at his disposal to promote his Yes campaign, reflecting a mounting discontent among opponents over the direction of the country. The main opposition parties challenged the result on the ground that the YSK’s last-minute ruling to allow ballots, which did not bear the official seal, to be counted significantly undercut the legitimacy of the vote, and altered the result.
Republican People’s Party (CHP) and pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party (HDP) claim that as many as 2.5 million unstamped ballots were counted as valid votes, demanding a recount, or annulment of the vote.
A group of international observers also questioned the referendum and said it took place on an uneven playing field, unequal terms during the campaign period. They also added an air of skepticism over the YSK’s controversial decision, saying that it undermined an important safeguard and contradicted with electoral laws.
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