OSCE: Turkey referendum 'contested on an unlevel playing field'

Turkey referendum result challenged

Turkey referendum result challenged

Turkey's main opposition party is demanding a referendum granting President Tayyip Erdogan sweeping new powers be nullified after a narrow "Yes" vote that exposed bitter divisions and drew concern from European Union leaders.

They have lost the referendum vote but in some sense see the result as a victory given what they say was the enormous pressure of the state against them during the campaign.

Turkish voters backed a constitutional referendum that concentrates power in the hands of the president on Sunday.

An global observer mission who monitored the voting also cited irregularities, saying the conduct of Sunday's referendum "fell short" of the worldwide standards Turkey has signed up to.

Over 25 million Turkish voters cast their ballots in favor of the amendments to the country's Constitution, Erdogan noted. President Erdogan has taken a more active role than his predecessors, but until the referendum the Prime Minister remained the chief executive.

Germany got into a diplomatic spat with Turkey just before the referendum, when it refused to let President Erdogan lead political rallies on German soil.

Opposition parties have argued that the changes, which come into effect after the 2019 presidential election, give too much power to the office.

But Erdogan's victory was far tighter than expected, emerging only after several nail-biting hours late Sunday which saw the "No" result dramatically catch up in the later count.

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But opponents questioned the validity of the vote, calling for a recount and challenging a last minute decision by the electoral authorities to allow ballots to be counted that were not stamped by election officials. "Both the unfair campaign and the substantive reforms that will now be implemented take Turkey away from the prospect of a political alliance with the European Union".

"Ballots and envelopes given to citizens are valid and produced by the High Electoral Board", the President of Turkish High Electoral Board said. Because they're contesting the vote, the opposition parties have not conceded.

The referendum campaign was highly divisive and heavily one-sided, with the "yes" side dominating the airwaves and billboards.

With 99.97% of ballots counted, the Yes campaign had won 51.41% of the votes cast, while No had taken 48.59%.

"Turkey remains under a state of emergency declared last July, following a failed coup that left almost 300 people dead". Supporters of the "no" vote complained of intimidation, including beatings, detentions and threats. Moreover, it said the work of the electoral boards lacked transparency.

Global election observers have slammed the handling of Turkey's constitutional referendum.

Turkey has also suffered renewed violence between Kurdish militants and security forces in the country's volatile southeast, as well as a string of bombings, some attributed to the Islamic State group, which is active across the border in Syria.

The outcome could likewise have even more extensive ramifications for Turkey which joined North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in 1952 and for the last half-century has set its sights on joining the European Union.

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