The vote gives Recep Tayyip Erdogan more power and removes the prime minister post.
Turkish citizens went to the booths today to vote on a constitutional reform that would grant President Recep Tayyip Erdogan more powers.
The polls have closed and Erdogan has claimed victory with 51.3% yes votes. But the opposition parties have contested these results that allow the government to “abolish the post of prime minister and entrench one-man rule.”
This makes Erdogan “the country’s most dominant leader since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish republic.”
Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) introduced new referendums in December as a way “to improve governance.”
The referendum eliminates the prime minister post and gives Erdogan “new authority over the judiciary.” It also allows Erdogan to have an election in 2019 and the ability to “serve two five-year terms.”
But it basically leaves Erdogan’s office unchecked. But he told the Turkish people his office needs this to happen so he can successfully “guide the Nato ally through war in Syria, a battle with Islamists and conflict with Kurdish separatists.”
The New York Times reported that Turkey’s state run agency Anadolu announced that after officials counted 99% votes, the yes votes had 51.33% results while the no votes had 48.67% votes. From The Associated Press:
Turkey’s foreign minister has hailed his government’s narrow win in a referendum as the birth of a “new Turkey”
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told a group of supporters in his hometown of Antalya on Sunday: “As of now, there is a truly new Turkey. There will be stability and trust in the new Turkey.”
The country has not officially announced official results. but opposition parties have already started to contest the results announced. The Republican People’s Party (CHP), the main opposition party, has called into question a few ballots. The Associated Press reported:
Turkey’s main opposition party has criticized the decision of the country’s elections board to accept as valid ballot papers that don’t have its official stamp.
Republican People’s Party deputy chairman Bulent Tezcan told reporters Sunday that the decision leaves the results of the constitutional referendum “faced with a serious legitimacy problem.”
Turkey’s Supreme Election Board announced the unprecedented move after many voters casting their votes in the country’s historic referendum complained that they were given ballot papers without the official stamp. The board says the ballot papers would be considered as invalid only if proven that they were cast fraudulently.
In previous votes, ballot papers without the official seal were declared to invalid.
Tezcan said: “The Supreme Electoral Board has changed the rules of the vote….This amounts to the SEB allowing fraud in this vote.”
CHP already stated the party “will challenge 37 percent of the ballot boxes” counted, but its Deputy Chairman Erdal Aksunger stated that officials may increase that number to 60%.
The Peoples’ Democratic Party, the pro-Kurdish opposition party, wants “to object to two-thirds of the ballots.”
The opposition questioned the legitimacy of the referendum after the election board made a last-minute decision to increase the burden needed to prove allegations of ballot-box stuffing. At least one instance of alleged voter fraud appeared to be captured on camera.
“We are receiving thousands of complaints on election fraud; we are evaluating them one by one,” said Erdal Aksunger, the deputy head of the Republican People’s Party, or C.H.P.
The Turkish government has received criticism for holding the vote while the country remains under a state of emergency due to a failed “coup” in July. After that, Erdogan conducted a power grab campaign that led to numerous arrests of journalists, academics, and members of the opposition. From The Financial Times:
“Turkey’s western orientation is finished,” said David L. Phillips, at the Institute for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia University, noting Mr Erdogan continues to detain MPs from HDP, a pro-Kurdish political party that opposed the referendum.
“There’s nothing to suggest that Erdogan will suddenly be more conciliatory,” Mr Philips added. ”There’s little hope that the HDP members of parliament will be released, the security operations in the south-east will continue and the round-up of Gulenists [blamed for the failed coup] will continue.”
During the purge, Amnesty International claimed that officials held those arrested without any access to lawyers or families. The officials also beat, tortured, and raped detainees. The organization reported:
A person on duty at the Ankara Police Headquarters sports hall saw a detainee with severe wounds consistent with having been beaten, including a large swelling on his head. The detainee could not stand up or focus his eyes and he eventually lost consciousness. While in some cases detainees were afforded limited medical assistance, police refused to allow this detainee essential medical treatment despite his severe injuries. The interviewee heard one police doctor on duty say: “Let him die. We will say he came to us dead.”
The same interviewee said 650-800 male soldiers were being held in the Ankara police headquarters sports hall. At least 300 of the detainees showed signs of having been beaten. Some detainees had visible bruises, cuts, or broken bones. Around 40 were so badly injured they could not walk. Two were unable to stand. One woman who was also detained in a separate facility there had bruising on her face and torso.
Then authorities shut down 130 media outlets and arrested 47 journalists.
After the media, authorities targeted those in the academics. By the end of July, the government sacked 15,200 teachers, canceled 21,000 licenses at private schools, and asked deans at universities to leave.
The academic purge continued for the rest of 2016:
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