CHP applies to YSK for cancellation, EU calls for investigation into alleged vote rigging in Turkey’s referendum

While, Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has applied to the Supreme Election Board (YSK) demanding the cancellation of a referendum held on April 16 due to irregularities in the voting process, the European Union has called for investigation into alleged vote rigging during Turkey’s referendum.

A constitutional change that will introduce an executive presidency in Turkey received 51.4 percent of the vote in favor in the referendum, but opposition parties have contested the results due to the use of unstamped ballots.

CHP Deputy Chairman Bülent Tezcan, who spoke to reporters after submitting his party’s application to the YSK in Ankara on Tuesday, talked about the use of unstamped ballots in the referendum, saying that the stamped ballots were not separated from the unstamped ones; hence, it is impossible to predict how many unstamped votes were cast. “All these negativities create a perfect situation of unlawfulness. The referendum needs to be cancelled due to this unlawfulness,” Tezcan said.

Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has also called on YSK to cancel the April 16 constitutional referendum due to the latter’s last-minute decision to accept unstamped ballots as valid. HDP spokesperson and Şanlıurfa deputy Osman Baydemir said the YSK refused to accept unstamped votes as valid in 2014 in the Güroymak district of the eastern province of Bitlis, thus paving way for the elections to be renewed.

“I’m making an open call from here. If you don’t adopt the same ‘invalidity’ decision that you made in 2014 for nearly 2.5 million votes [in the referendum], then you are not a referee, but a party,” Baydemir said at his party’s parliamentary group meeting in Ankara on April 18. Describing the referendum results as “questionable,” Baydemir said the YSK’s acceptance of the unstamped ballot papers was a “blow to the elections.”

“There is no victory. There is a major voluntary resistance of those who defended the ‘no’ vote against fascism despite all the oppression. Despite the blackmail and oppression, 24 million citizens united in voting ‘no.’ In 17 metropolises, such as İstanbul, Ankara, İzmir, Eskişehir, Adana, Diyarbakır and Van, no agreement was reached regarding the proposed constitution. This constitution is not legitimate and doesn’t respond to society’s needs,” he added.

Baydemir also commented on the southeastern votes, saying that “Kurdish people protected their freedoms, democracy and language at the risk of death.”

“Amid conditions of a coup and a state of emergency and despite the fact that their cities were burnt and destroyed, hundreds of people were left homeless, trustees were appointed to their municipalities, Ağrı, Diyarbakır, Hakkari, Mardin, Muş, Siirt, Tunceli, Van, Batman, Şırnak and Iğdır voted ‘no’ to oppression and fascism by 62 percent ,” he said.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people gathered in front of YSK headquarters in Ankara on Tuesday demanding the cancellation of the results of a referendum on Sunday on the grounds that there were irregularities during the voting. In addition to citizens, representatives from civil society organizations had also gathered in front of the YSK building on Tuesday, forming long queues to submit their petitions in which they ask for cancellation of the referendum results because unstamped ballots were cast.

YSK officials accepted the petitions from the hundreds of people while another crowd gathered in front of the İstanbul Courthouse in Çağlayan for the same reason on Tuesday.

On the other hand, in carefully crafted comments, the European Union has called for an investigation into alleged irregularities during a referendum in Turkey on Sunday, which gave sweeping powers to Turkey’s already autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

EU Commission Chief Spokesperson Margaritis Schinas has called on Turkish authorities and all relevant actors “to launch transparent investigations” into the alleged vote fraud. Schinas also said the Turkish government should seek the broadest consensus possible when taking the next steps following the referendum.

The EU has been strongly criticized for remaining mostly silent about the drastic backsliding of democracy in Turkey in a bid not to harm a refugee deal that has proven successful in preventing refugees from arriving in Europe.

Asked about plans by President Erdoğan to reinstate the death penalty, the spokesperson said capital punishment was the “reddest line of the EU” and that such a move would mean Turkey no longer wants to be a part of the European family. However, Schinas refrained from giving specifics on possible sanctions.

He also confirmed that EU High Representative Federica Mogherini had talked to the OSCE head of mission in Turkey. In its first statement after the referendum, the OSCE team had cast serious doubts on the results.

“The Supreme Board of Elections issued instructions late in the day that significantly changed the ballot validity criteria, undermining an important safeguard and contradicting the law,” it said.

The OSCE was also critical of the unlevel playing field. “The 16 April constitutional referendum in Turkey was contested on an unlevel playing field, and the two sides in the campaign did not have equal opportunities. While the technical aspects of the process were well administered, voters were not provided with impartial information about key aspects of the reform, and limitations on fundamental freedoms had a negative effect,” the statement noted.

Alev Korun, a member of the OSCE delegation has pointed out that there were around 2,5 million dubious votes in Turkey’s allegedly rigged referendum. Commenting on the use of unstamped ballots, Korun said “There is suspicion that around 2,5 million votes might have been manipulated in consideration of the fact that laws allow the acceptance of only official ballots and envelopes. However, the Supreme Election Board has accepted the envelopes without official stamps in defiance of the law.”

Late on Sunday, Turkey’s Supreme Election Board (YSK) issued a controversial ruling on the day of the vote to accept ballots in envelopes not bearing official polling station stamps, raising suspicions about the legitimacy of the unstamped ballots. (SCF with April 18, 2017

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