Past YSK rulings show opposition parties appealed to declare unstamped ballots valid

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has insisted the new constitutional reforms in the country don't make him a dictator. Tana de Zulueta, head of the observer mission, told reporters that the group had paid a courtesy call and held a "cordial" meeting with board members.

Turkey's electoral authority rejected appeals to annul the referendum granting President Tayyip Erdogan wide new powers, but the main opposition CHP party said it will maintain its legal challenge to a vote it has said was deeply flawed.

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.

Turkey's Supreme Electoral Board (YSK) made a controversial last-minute decision on April 16 to count ballots that had not been stamped by officials.

Thousands took to the streets of Istanbul on Monday evening to protest the results, with some holding banners which read "No has won", referring to the referendum's "no" votes. "This system represents a change, a transformation in the democratic history of Turkey".

Until now, Turkey's president was required to remain above party politics, a condition which was removed in one of the referendum's 18 amendments.

His nephew, Can Atalay, said by telephone that the police had told Mr. Atalay that he was being charged for "inciting hatred among people by claiming the referendum result is dubious".

Additional complaints included the barring of almost 200 opposition members from serving as election monitors and the temporary detention of other election observers.

In its interim report, the global observers said the Supreme Board of Elections had "issued instructions late in the day that significantly changed the ballot validity criteria, undermining an important safeguard and contradicting the law".

It also said both sides called for an unprejudiced investigation into the suspected chemical attack in Syria earlier this month that killed more than 80 people. Under the changes, most of which will only come into effect after the next elections due in 2019, the president will appoint the cabinet and an undefined number of vice-presidents, and be able to select and remove senior civil servants without parliamentary approval. "Democracy gains the power from the people", he said. The President will not have to terminate his party membership and may continue to promote its interests.

The White House confirmed that Trump congratulated his Turkish counterpart on securing a referendum victory that significantly expands his presidential powers.

The arrests will add to fears that Sunday's referendum has accelerated Turkey's descent toward authoritarianism.

As someone who watches Turkey closely, I can say that the Erdogan regime had to pressurise the YSK to take these frantic measures to save the day for them because they themselves did not expect such a close result.

  • Leroy Wright