Referendum ‘unfair and unfree’: EU observer
Fears that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan unfairly influenced Turkey’s referendum in his favour have been heightened by criticism from an EU observers.
Opposition groups are saying the result should be annulled after alleging electoral fraud in the 51-per-cent vote for constitutional changes that include the abolition of the office of the prime minister and could allow Erdogan to stay as president until 2029.
Turkey also reported troubling economic data with the worst budget deficit and unemployment figures in years.
The Finance Ministry posted its biggest budget deficit for the month of March since at least 2006, according to Bloomberg, while unemployment in January rose to the highest level in seven years.
The EU sent a delegation of 20 observers to ensure the referendum complied with international standards.
EU observer Stefan Schennach joined the domestic opposition in expressing serious concerns about the process, which he condemned as “unfair and unfree”. He said the 49-per-cent “no” vote marked a considerable success. Schennach tweeted that the “police twice blocked our observation”.
“After our mission in Diyarbakır and Mardin we got deeply worried,” the observer said.
The state-run Anadolu news agency reported that turnout exceeded 80 per cent, with the “no” campaign winning 48.59 per cent of votes after 99.97 per cent had been counted.
The main opposition, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), which used to dominate politics, demanded the result be annulled, alleging that up to 40 per cent of the votes should be recounted.
The CHP’s leader Bulent Tezcan claimed that people had been unable to vote in private.
The CHP said it planned to challenge the referendum at the European Court of Human Rights, while the pro-Kurdish HDP opposition claimed the result would remain unclear until its appeal to the High Electoral Board over vote irregularities had been finalised.
“The referendum result is a clear sign that a societal agreement could not be reached. Our co-chairs being jailed, the referendum being held under a state of emergency and other oppressive measures cast a shadow and legitimacy problem over the vote,” HDP spokesman Osman Baydemir told the media.
The UN reported that nearly 500,000 mostly Kurds had fled their homes as fighting raged between Ankara and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the southeast of Turkey. Many of have been unable to vote because they lacked a permanent address.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the EU was “awaiting the assessment of the International Observation Mission, also with regard to alleged irregularities”.
He urged Turkey to “address the Council of Europe’s concerns and recommendations, including with regards to the state of emergency”.
Three people were killed outside one polling station in Diyarbakir, apparently after a political disagreement.
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