Turkey election board 'rejects referendum annulment bid'

Paterniano Del Favero
Aprile 21, 2017

The US President, Donald Trump, has called the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to congratulate him on winning a referendum granting him new powers, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported. "Where dictatorships exist, you don't have to have a presidential system", he said.

The "Yes" camp won 51.41 percent in Sunday's referendum in a narrower-than-expected victory but the opposition claimed the outcome would have been reversed in a fair poll.

The changes, most of which are due to come into force after November 2019, are some of the most far-reaching in Turkey since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk established the modern state in 1923 on the ashes of the Ottoman Empire.

Bulent Tezcan, CHP deputy leader, told CNN-Turk the YSK's decision to reject the petitions sparked a "serious legitimacy crisis". The head of the board said it had received many complaints that polling stations didn't have stamps and made the decision to accept the ballots after an appeal from a ruling AK Party official.

Turkish media said Putin and Erdogan emphasized the importance of normalizing ties and maintaining a cease-fire in Syria that was jointly brokered by Ankara and Moscow earlier this year. "We will go our own way", Erdogan said in reference to the report. He said that "the path to seek rights" should be limited to the courts.

Worldwide observers agreed the campaign was conducted on an "unlevel playing field" and that the vote count itself was marred by procedural changes that removed key safeguards.

EU Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas called on Turkish authorities "to launch transparent investigations into these alleged irregularities found by the observers".

Turkey's EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik quickly hit back, saying: "Such a speculative statement from a spokesperson can not be accepted". The European Union opposed Erdogan's bid to shift the country to a system giving the president sweeping new powers.

"Objection to election results should remain there", he said.

"We look to the government of Turkey to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of all its citizens - regardless of their vote on April 16 - as guaranteed by the Turkish constitution and in accordance with Turkey's global commitments", the State Department said in a statement.

Under the revised constitution, Erdogan will be able to abolish the post of Prime Minister and assume broad new powers to rule by decree.

But the "Yes" vote has even wider implications for Turkey, which joined North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in 1952 and in the last half-century has been engaged in a stalled bid to join the European Union.

Dieter Kempf, president of the BDI lobby group, says the result of the vote "is worrying" and suggests Turkey is moving further away from European values. Because if he also meant to congratulate him on the reforms - which also grant the Turkish dictator the power to bring back the death penalty - that surely does not bode well for the United States.

The White House reported that besides congratulating Mr Erdogan, President Trump also discussed with him the U.S. action in response to the Syrian regime's use of chemical weapons on April 4th.

There have been daily street protests in anti-Erdogan neighbourhoods in Istanbul since Sunday's referendum, with thousands chanting slogans and banging pots and pans in an angry show of discontent.

Gulen is accused of ordering last July's failed coup and Ankara has repeatedly called for his extradition.

The latter told CNN on Tuesday that he wanted to meet with Trump.

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