Turkey's Referendum 'The day after': Abundant signs of manipulation.
Turkey's Referendum 'The day after': Abundant signs of manipulation. (Freedomhouse).
Turkey’s Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) announced last night that the “Yes” vote had won, but by a slim margin: 51.4 percent to 48.6 percent amid high turnout. The ideologically diverse opposition—the secular-nationalist Republican People’s Party (CHP), the left-wing and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), and a dissident faction of the religious-nationalist Nationalist Action Party (MHP) represented by Meral Akşener—all cried fraud.
During the day, videos circulating on social media showed scattered violations across the country. Monitors were denied access to polling stations; two men entered one booth and put multiple ballots into the same box; poll workers were seen stamping multiple ballots “Yes.”
Most shockingly, as the polls were about to close, the YSK announced that it would accept votes that had not received the official seal of the local polling station—in other words, the stamp that proves the ballot came from the polling station, and not from somewhere else. The YSK explained the decision by claiming that a number of stations had used the wrong stamp by accident, but it also noted that the decision was based on complaints from the AKP, and was taken “so that the will of the voter could be heard.”
The opposition claims that several million such votes were accepted, enough to swing the outcome. There is no way to know: The YSK admits that it is not sure how many were accepted, and the ballots may have been stamped during the counting anyway, rendering them indistinguishable from properly validated votes.
The preliminary conclusions of the international observation mission of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe/Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR) were harsh. Even with its characteristic understatement, the mission could not avoid describing the extent of the damage to Turkey’s electoral system. The report observed that the campaign took place on an unlevel playing field, in an atmosphere where fundamental freedoms had been curtailed. Most strikingly for Turkey, whose reputation as a democracy has increasingly rested on the narrow credential of fairly counted votes, the mission expressed sharp concerns about the administration of the referendum. The YSK’s decisions were nontransparent, and many were not even published; the mission said that the last-minute decision to allow unstamped ballots to be counted as valid removed an important safeguard against fraud and contradicted Turkish law.OSCE/ODIHR statements do not get much stronger. Erdoğan today said that the next referendum could be to reintroduce the death penalty, and cast Sunday’s vote as a rebuke of the West. With his domestic legitimacy weakened, he will lean more and more on the notion that Turkey is under threat from external enemies, as he did throughout the last month of the campaign.
Since 2013, Turkey has been living through a series of deepening crises that are largely of Erdoğan’s making. The unfortunate outcome of this flawed referendum is that the current crisis will now grow even more profound.Read the full story here.