Turkey Arrests Dozens Over Referendum Protests

Turkey's top election authority rejected an opposition bid to annul the referendum on expanding President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's powers on Wednesday, after widespread doubts and complaints of vote-rigging, state media reported.

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.

Mehmet Hadimi Yakupoglu, the main opposition Republican People's Party's representative at the board, said they would take the decision to the constitutional court and then to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary.

A major issue of contention was the official electoral body's last-minute decision to include in the count ballots that had not been stamped and sealed by officials.

The 18 amendments to the constitution aim at transforming the political system in Turkey from a parliamentary to a presidential democracy with wide powers for the president.

After Erdogan's narrow win in Sunday's referendum on creating an executive presidency, Trump congratulated the Turkish leader in a phone call on Monday, in contrast to the muted reaction of European leaders to the result, which has been challenged by the opposition.

Yilmaz added that the CHP was not surprised by the rejection of Turkey's Supreme Electoral Council of his party's appeal against the constitutional referendum results given the composition of the Council, which, he claimed, is dominated by supporters of the Turkish president.

The placards reads in Turkish ‘No we will win’. Turkey’s main opposition party urged the country’s electoral board Monday to cancel the

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

Observers said this decision, made in the afternoon of election day, removed an important safeguard against fraud.

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".

Erdogan also lashed out at an OSCE report critical of Turkey's handling of Sunday's referendum.

"What matters for us is not so much the first reaction from whomever in Turkey, directed more at domestic politics, but whether the responsible Turkish authorities really deal seriously with the criticism voiced publicly by the OSCE election observer mission, which was meant seriously and researched seriously". "The system represents a change, a transformation in the democratic history of Turkey", he said.

The two leaders will meet in May, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said at a press conference carried by CNN Turk on Wednesday.

Last month, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson became the most senior American official to visit Turkey since Trump took office in January.

  • Leroy Wright