ANKARA: Turkey’s top electoral board has overwhelmingly rejected objections to the way the country’s referendum was run, Turkey’s semi-official Anadolu news agency reported on Wednesday.
A narrow majority of voters in Sunday’s referendum backed the 18-article constitutional reform package, which will transform the country’s parliamentary system into a powerful executive presidency.
But the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), along with individuals and civil society groups, challenged the result — amid concerns over unstamped ballots in particular — and called for it to be annulled.
After considering their complaints Wednesday, the electoral body ruled by 10 to one to deny the objections put forward by the CHP and hundreds of individuals, Anadolu said.
The reform plan, put forward by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), will give Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sweeping and largely unchecked powers.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim urged the opposition on Wednesday to drop its challenge. “Objection to election results should remain there,” he said and added, “The opposition should not call people to take to the streets and say they do not recognize election results.”
But Bulent Tezcan, deputy chairman of the CHP, told reporters Monday that the party would appeal to the European Court of Human Rights if the electoral body didn’t void Sunday’s referendum result.
“The only decision that will end the legitimacy debate and ease people’s concerns about the judiciary is for the High Election Board to cancel the referendum,” Tezcan said.
Demonstrators have taken to the streets, including in Istanbul, to protest the referendum’s outcome. Prominent political activist Abdurrahman Atalay was detained Wednesday along with 16 other people, according to Zeynep Atalay, his cousin and one of his lawyers.
No official charge has yet been laid against the activist, his cousin said, but they believe his detention is related to the “no” campaign that he was running.
But Turkey’s President has insisted that his plans to assume do not make him a dictator and that the changes were not about empowering him.
“I am a mortal really, I could die at any time,” he said in his first interview since the vote.
Erdogan rejected accusations that he supported the new powers out of a desire to empower himself rather than improve Turkey’s political system. “The system represents a change, a transformation in the democratic history of Turkey,” he said.
Under the revised constitution, Erdogan will be able to abolish the post of Prime Minister and assume broad new powers to rule by decree. The new arrangements will give him the power to appoint a cabinet and some senior judges, and the power of parliament to scrutinize legislation will curbed.