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Referendum shows a deeply divided Turkey: What’s next?

A slim victory that is a defeat in a divided country. Turkey’s referendum result is tight, with a gap of some 1.3 million votes between winner Yes and loser No. Opposition parties cry ‘foul’ because the Supreme Electoral Council allowed non-stamped ballots to be counted as valid. One and a half million votes were invalid, the opposition denounces and plans to officially ask for the recounting of almost half of the votes.

Turks celebrating Referendum win

Referendum results by 99.9% of votes

YES 25,156,860 51.37%

NO  23,777,014  48.59%

‘No’ votes prevailed in major cities Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir. Majority of Turks in Europe voted ‘Yes’.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared victory. He said the results heralded a “new era” in Turkey, with the harmonization of laws due to be completed by November 2019. He called on the country’s “allies and friends” to acknowledge and respect the will of the Turkish voters. He also implied, there might be a referendum for the return of the death penalty.

The referendum was brought by ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) and supported by the ultra-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). The proposed 18 amendments of the constitution will abolish the parliamentary system of the government and the Prime Minister and replace it with an executive presidency and a presidential system. In the new system the president will be able to appoint and sack vice presidents and ministers also from outside the parliament, appoint members of high judicial board.

Erdogan was hoping to get 585 to 60% in Yes votes.

The new system will go into effect on 3. November 2019, when for the first time parliamentary and presidential elections will be held at the same time. the president will be elected directly by the people and not by the parliament.

‘Foul’ play

Evet = Yes Hayir = NO

The results will be finalized by the Supreme Election Board (YSK) in two weeks. However,  the YSK put itself in the middle of a deep controversy by making a contentious announcement in the early stages of the beginning of the vote count. It stated that ballot papers without an authenticating stamp could be counted as a valid vote so long as it could not be proven that they had been moved from elsewhere, rejecting its former rule.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) stated that with this decision the YSK, made up of high judges, had become a stooge of the government. It vowed to appeal against the results of 37 percent of the ballot boxes. The CHP claims that the YSK announcement casts a shadow on between 1.5 million and 2.5 million votes, while the gap between “Yes” and “No” is some 1.3 million. CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu also noted that “at least half” of the population objected to the new constitution despite unfair conditions during the campaign, saying the approved constitution text far from reflected a social consensus.

CHP leader Kemal Kilincaroglu said “Erdogan’s dogs cannot scare us.’

Also the Kurdish party Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) announced that it would appeal against the results of some two thirds of the boxes. Most of the majority Kurdish provinces in the southeast voted “No” in the referendum.

Videos allegedly showing cases of fraud during the voting were uploaded on YouTube. One showed several men to check YES and put the ballots in envelops. Another video showed a local major and another man inside the voting booth. The major throws one by one, a total of four envelopes inside the ballot box.

How the YES won in Urfa, SE Turkey.

On Monday, the head of the election board said that the disputed ballots are “legitimate.”

Sadi Guven, the chairman of the Supreme Election Board (YSK), defended the decision to allow votes that did not bear official seals to be counted alongside checked ballots.

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

Official results due to be announced in 11-12 days, he added.

Opposition CHP calls on the government to resign.

What’s next?

According to Erdogan’s critics, the amendments will turn Turkey into a one-man rule and a de factor dictatorship. the country will move into a more and more theocratic state. His supporters claim Turkey’s politics will be more democratic in the future.

Turkey relations to the European Union were tense in the last months. Erdogan had warned to put Turkey’s accession to EU but also the EU Turkey deal on migration after the referendum. During his referendum campaign. Erdogan did not miss a chance to lash out at at Europe, with bold and provocative statements.

Before he reconsiders the relations abroad, president Erdogan might want to put his own home in order. The referendum showed one thing very clearly: that Turkey is literally divided, and the risk of polarization is extremely high when half of the nation reject the new system he wants to impose on them.

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  1. Imagine what our election results would look like if we allowed diaspora Greeks (Greek-Australians / Greek-Americans etc etc) to vote. The UK allows ex-pats to vote up to 25 years of living outside the country, then cuts them off. The reasoning is that these ex-pats have lost touch with home concerns.

  2. The internal votes (votes inside Turkey) show that the “YES” votes are stronger than the votes for President Trump in the USA, where the ballots were also disputed. What’s good for the goose should be good for the gander surely.