Turkey’s vote expanding Erdogan powers valid: Election body

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Istanbul, April 17 (IANS) The result of the referendum that grants sweeping new powers to the President of Turkey is valid, the head of the electoral body said on Monday.

Sadi Guven, the chairman of the Supreme Election Board (YSK), was speaking after the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) cited irregularities, including the use of unstamped ballot papers, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s push for an executive presidency succeeded with over 51 per cent votes for the “Yes” campaign.

In a news conference in Ankara, Guven said the “voting papers and envelopes that were claimed to be void and disputed are YSK-made, real, legitimate, non-fake ballots.”

During Sunday night’s count, the YSK announced that unverified votes — which had not been verified as genuine by election officials — would be allowed.

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He said a similar procedure had been used in past elections.

This led to a protest by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), which said it would contest the count and complain about other violations during the vote.

CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu said: “We respect the nation’s will but the decision on unsealed ballots overshadowed it.”

The CHP demanded a recount of 60 per cent of the votes.

The win was met with both celebrations and protests across Turkey.

Three of Turkey’s biggest cities – Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir – all voted “No” to the constitutional changes, BBC reported.

Opposition supporters took to the streets of Istanbul to bang pots and pans, a traditional form of protest, in a series of noisy demonstrations.

Meanwhile, flag-waving supporters of Erdogan celebrated as their President praised them for their “historic decision” that could keep him in office until 2029.

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With 99.97 per cent of ballots counted, the “Yes” campaign had won 51.41 per cent of the votes cast, while “No” had taken 48.59 per cent.

The turnout was said to be as high as 85 per cent.

Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek said there would be no early elections following the result.

Responding to Sunday’s result, the European Commission issued a statement saying it was awaiting the assessment of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the ODIHR International Observation Mission.

It urged Erdogan to respect the closeness of the vote and to “seek the broadest possible national consensus” when considering the far-reaching implications of the constitutional amendments.

The US said it is following the results and but won’t comment on them until the OSCE releases its report.

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Former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, who heads the liberal group of MEPs in the European Parliament, said Erdogan needed to change course, noting the result was very tight.

Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said on Twitter that “it shows how divided the country is. Collaboration with the EU will be even more complex.”

The final referendum results will be released within 12 days.



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