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Wednesday 26 July 2017

Turkey opposition calls for referendum to be annulled

Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan hails his referendum victory (AP)
Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan hails his referendum victory (AP)

Turkey's main opposition party has filed a formal request seeking the referendum to be annulled because of voting irregularities.

Bulent Tezcan, deputy chairman of the Republican People's Party, announced the move at the Ankara offices of the electoral board.

He said the results of the referendum on constitutional changes are "illegitimate" and the party would use all legal paths to challenge it.

Mr Tezcan said that "we demand the cancellation of this referendum".

The opposition has listed a series of irregularities, but has been particularly outraged by an electoral board decision announced late on Sunday to accept ballots that did not bear the official stamps used to verify they are genuine, as required by Turkish law.

Monitors from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, who also listed numerous problems, said the move undermined important election safeguards.

That drew a harsh rebuke from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and criticism from Prime Minister Binali Yildirim.

"Efforts to cast a shadow on the result of the vote by spreading rumours of fraud are futile and in vain," Mr Yildirim said.

"The will of the people was freely reflected into the ballot boxes and this business is over. Everyone and all sections - and the main opposition party in particular- must show respect. It is wrong to speak after the people have spoken."

Opposition CHP head Kemal Kilicdaroglu accused the electoral board of bias and of favouring the governing party.

"It is clear that the High Electoral Board is not receiving its power from the people, the law or the constitution but rather from a specific centre, a specific political authority," he told his party's politiicans during a speech in Ankara.

He accused the board of "changing the rules mid-game".

In Ankara, hundreds of people were queuing outside the election board's offices to submit petitions requesting the board reverse its decision to accept the ballots without official stamps.

In their petitions, the residents of Ankara said the decision and other reported irregularities were in open violation of the law. Similar queues were also reported in front of an election board office in Istanbul.

Sunday's referendum allows President Erdogan, who has ruled Turkey first as prime minister and now as president since 2003, to fulfil his long-held ambition for a presidency with executive powers.

The referendum approves 18 constitutional amendments that allow the president to appoint ministers, senior government officials and to hold sway over who sits in Turkey's highest judicial body, as well as to issue decrees and declare states of emergency.

The new system takes effect at the next election, currently due to take place in November 2019.

Other changes are to be implemented sooner, including scrapping a requirement that the president not be a member of any political party.

This would allow President Erdogan to rejoin the governing AK Party he co-founded, or to lead it.

On Tuesday, Mr Yildirim said Mr Erdogan would be invited to join the party as soon as the official results are declared.

"We will invite our founding chairman to our party and we will feel a huge elation to see him among us," he said.

Meanwhile, OSCE monitors were seen entering the Supreme Electoral Board headquarters.

Tana de Zulueta, head of the observer mission, told reporters that the group had paid a courtesy call and held a "cordial" meeting with electoral board members.

Asked to comment about Erdogan's rebuke, Ms de Zulueta said: "I don't have an opinion, we are invited by the Turkish authorities to observe. We share our report and we completed our mandate."

In Istanbul, hundreds of "no" supporters demonstrated in the streets on Monday night, chanting "thief, murderer, Erdogan" and banging pots and pans.

US President Donald Trump, meanwhile, ignored the concerns about voting irregularities and congratulated President Erdogan on his referendum victory.

The two leaders also discussed Turkey's support of the US response to a Syrian chemical weapons attack and efforts to counter the Islamic State group, according to the White House summary of their phone call.

AP

Press Association

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