Turkey detains leftist activists after 'No' protests - lawyer

Candice Alexander
April 21, 2017

As many as 2.5 million votes could have been manipulated in Sunday's Turkish referendum that ended in a close "yes" vote for greater presidential powers, an Austrian member of the Council of Europe observer mission said on Tuesday.

Opposition parties are saying the result should be annulled after alleging electoral fraud in Sunday's referendum, in which 51% of the electorate voted for constitutional changes that include the abolition of the office of Prime Minister, and could allow Recep Tayyip Erdogan to stay as President until 2029.

Mr. Erdogan, speaking from his official residence in Istanbul on Sunday, said the referendum had closed the door on Turkey's long history of military intervention in government.

Turkey and the European Union have spent three decades trying to unite, but the EU membership talks seem to be moving toward a permafrost that would effectively end a project that was as majestic as it proved elusive. Everyone and all sections - and the main opposition party in particular- must show respect.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the Republican People's Party, or CHP, made the comments during a speech to his lawmakers Tuesday, challenging the outcome of the referendum on constitutional amendments.

The board's decision to accept ballots without official stamps was like "changing the rules midgame", he said.

In their petitions, the residents of Ankara said the decision and other reported irregularities were in open violation of the law.

Before the electoral board's announcement, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the opposition had the right to file objections, but warned that calling for street protests was unacceptable.

The new system takes full effect at the next election, now slated for November 2019. This would allow Erdogan to rejoin the governing AKP he co-founded, or to lead it.

"I suspect the result was narrower than what Erdogan expected", said Howard Eissenstat, associate professor of Middle East History at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York.

Election monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe were seen entering the High Electoral Board headquarters in Ankara.

"The campaign rhetoric was tarnished by some officials equating "No" sympathisers with terrorists", added ODIHR mission head Tana de Zulueta.

Ms. Schinas said: "We call on all actors to show restraint and on the authorities to launch transparent investigations into these alleged irregularities found by the observers". "We share our report and we completed our mandate".

The president and government should be setting out the steps they intend to take to restore full respect for human rights in Turkey, including ending arbitrary detention and prosecution, safeguarding freedom of the media and expression and judicial independence, and guaranteeing all citizens their right to political participation, HRW said.

The protesters on Wednesday evening chanted "Thief, Murderer, Erdogan" and "Don't be silent, shout out, "no" to the presidency".

U.S. President Donald Trump, meanwhile, ignored the concerns about voting irregularities and congratulated Erdogan on his referendum victory. According to a report by RIA Novosti, protests were also staged at Besiktas and Kadikoy districts of Turkey.

Other reports by VgToday

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