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Turkish Opposition Seeks Annulment of Referendum | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Anti-government demonstrators light flares during a protest in the Kadikoy district of Istanbul, Turkey, April 17, 2017. REUTERS/Kemal Aslan

Ankara – Tensions have risen in Turkey and protests have erupted following Sunday’s referendum which resulted in a 51.41 percent victory for the “yes” campaign, while the parliament approved the memo presented by the government to extend the state of emergency announced since July 21, 2016.

The main opposition People’s Republican Party (CHP) presented a formal appeal to the High Electoral Board (YSK) challenging the results of the referendum and calling for its cancelation and the recount of 60 percent of the votes.

Hundreds gathered at the headquarters of YSK calling for cancelation of the results of the referendum which grants the president new jurisdiction.

CHP deputy chairman Bulent Tezcan said the number of missing votes was “unprecedented” – although the exact number of unstamped ballots was unknown.

CHP said it will take its challenge to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary.

Head of YSK at the parliament MP Mustafa Sentop said that European Court of Human Rights has nothing to do with the Turkish referendum.

Pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party stated that it filed an appeal for about three million voters who had unstamped ballots, which is more than the approval result achieved by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkey’s bar association said that the last-minute decision taken by YSK to allow unstamped ballots in the referendum was clearly against the law, prevented proper records being kept, and may have impacted the results.

“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 in a statement.

The association stated that its 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 potential to impact the results.

Council of Europe observer mission said up to 2.5 million votes could have been manipulated, almost double the margin of Erdogan’s victory, and that the YSK decision on unstamped ballots appeared illegal.

Member of mission Alev Korun said: “These complaints are to be taken very seriously and they are, in any case, of such an extent that they would turn around the outcome of the vote.”

The European Commission called on Turkey to launch a transparent investigation into the alleged irregularities.

On Wednesday, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said that appeals against the outcome of Sunday’s referendum handing Erdogan sweeping powers were a right, but that calling people to the streets in protest were not.

During a weekly parliamentary group meeting in Ankara, Yildirim said the ruling AK Party had received a message from the nation in the vote – as the “yes” camp won by a narrower majority than it expected – that it needed to be more careful on some issues.

The PM described efforts to cast a shadow on the result of the vote by spreading rumors of fraud as “futile and in vain.”

“The will of the people was freely reflected into the ballot boxes and this business is over. Everyone and all sections and the main opposition party in particular must show respect. It is wrong to speak after the people have spoken,” Yildirim stated.

Turkish Minister for EU Affairs Omer Celik accused the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) mission, which oversaw the constitutional referendum in Turkey, of a biased approach.

“Report of the OSCE observation mission is immature and far from objectivity. The violations were noticed, however, the observers did not comment on the lack of opportunities for the supporters of the presidential system in Europe to hold campaigns there, and this is an evidence of their biased approach. The mission also noted the alleged unequal conditions for ‘yes’ and ‘no’ campaigning,” Celik told journalists.

A day after the referendum and upon the recommendation of the National Security Board (MGK), Turkish government on April 17 decided to extend a state of emergency for another three months. It has now been extended three times since the July 2016 failed coup.

Hundreds of people marched to the streets of Istanbul to protest the results of the referendum and extension of state of emergency. Local media said that 13 persons had been arrested in Antakya, south Turkey.

On Monday, protesters took to the streets in at least three suburbs of Istanbul and thousands protesters were shouting “thief, murderer, Erdogan” while banging pots and pans.

Amid the controversy following the referendum, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would be invited to rejoin the governing AK Party as soon as the official results are announced.

“After the announcement of official results, we will invite our Founding Chairman [Erdogan] to our party and we will be glad to see him among us,” Yildirim said.

During the meeting, Yıldırım said that the results of the referendum are the beginning of a new era in Turkish politics and emphasized the necessity for unity and solidarity in the country as a whole.

“We have turned a new page in our political history. With the result from the ballots, our people and Turkey has won. This result is a beginning of a new era. Not only did the supporters of ‘yes’ win but so did our citizens who chose to support ‘no’ on April 16th… No one is a loser in this election. There is no difference in the percentage of ‘yes’ votes from Bayburt and the ‘no’ votes from Tunceli. They have both won,” Yildrim stated.

The prime minister stressed that Turkey is to now move forward and called on his party members to get to work.

Continuing his remarks by urging unity as a country, the prime minister affirmed that the AK Party is to protect the rights of all citizens without exception.

The membership invitation would come after election results are published in the Official Gazette, expected in 10-11 days.