Turkey’s Supreme Election Board rejects all appeals to cancel referendum

The Supreme Election Board (YSK) rejected petitions submitted by three political parties to cancel Sunday’s controversial constitutional referendum result. Ten out of 11 YSK members voted against the appeals made by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and the Patriotic Party,  according to a written statement released by YSK on Wednesday.

“The YSK meeting to discuss the applications for cancelling the referendum due to complete illegality, began today. The board voted separately on all three applications. Ten members voted against, one agreed and the applications were rejected by majority vote,” said the statement.

CHP Deputy Chairman Bülent Tezcan condemned the decision. “This is a serious legitimacy crisis,” he told reporters in Ankara. “This is not only a problem about the ‘No’ votes but an injustice against all citizens who cast their votes. Because, the ‘Yes’ votes also became controversial through this decision.”

Following the CHP), the HDP has also applied to YSK, demanding the cancellation of the results of a referendum held on April 16 due to irregularities in the voting process. The HDP has also filed a criminal complaint against YSK President Sadi Güven and YSK members on allegations of official misconduct.

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

Meanwhile, spokesperson for the main opposition CHP, Selin Sayek Böke has said the use of unstamped ballots made a referendum held on Sunday “controversial” and that her party would do everything possible for a repeat of the vote including withdrawing from Parliament. Speaking to reporters following a party meeting on Wednesday, Böke said: “The referendum should be held again, should be repeated. The CHP will do what is necessary during this process.”

When asked by a reporter what kind of steps the CHP is considering taking, Böke said: “Those steps include both withdrawing from Parliament and continuing to work.”

On the other hand, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has criticized Turkey not cooperating with investigation into the infraction allegations concerning the constitutional amendment referendum. Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), Michael George Link, has stated that “it is unfortunately not possible to speak of a cooperation”,  in his interview to the Dutch media according to Deutsche Welle. “It is fixed that decision of the YSK contravenes Turkish legislations,” said OSCE chief observer Link and rejected Ankara’s accusation that “OSCE observers are preconceived.”

The OSCE said on Monday that Turkey’s referendum on Sunday lacked equal opportunities, media coverage for the contesting sides and international standards for a fair election. In a statement on Monday, the joint mission of the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) said the April 16 constitutional referendum in Turkey was contested on an unlevel playing field and that the two sides in the campaign did not have equal opportunities.

“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. On referendum day there were no major problems, except in some regions, however we can only regret the absence of civil society observers in polling stations,” Cezar Florin Preda, head of the delegation from PACE, said. “A state of emergency should never be used to undermine the rule of law,” Preda added.

The OSCE said, in some cases, access for ODIHR observers during the opening and voting in polling stations was either denied or limited.

During the Sunday voting, some citizens cast their votes in unstamped ballots, while others used envelopes and ballots they brought with them, which prompted some opposition parties and naysayers to raise suspicions about the validity of the vote

The official results are due to be released at the beginning of May.

April 19, 2017

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