ANKARA, Turkey (AP) - Turkey’s main opposition party on Monday urged the country’s electoral board to cancel the results of a landmark referendum that granted sweeping new powers to the nation’s president, citing what it called substantial voting irregularities.
International observers who monitored the voting also found irregularities, saying the conduct of Sunday’s referendum “fell short” of international standards. It specifically criticized a decision Sunday by Turkey’s electoral board to accept ballots that did not have official stamps, saying that undermined safeguards against fraud.
Turkey’s electoral board confirmed the “yes” victory in the referendum and said the final results would be declared in 11-12 days. The state-run Anadolu Agency said the “yes” side stood at 51.4 percent of the vote, while the “no” vote saw 48.6 percent support.
The margin could cement President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s hold on power in Turkey for a decade and is expected to have a huge effect on the country’s long-term political future and its international relations. Opponents had argued the constitutional changes give too much power to a man they say has shown increasingly autocratic tendencies.
“I suspect the result was narrower than what Erdogan expected,” said Howard Eissenstat, associate professor of Middle East History at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York. However, he added, “Erdogan has ruled with a narrow victory before. He does not see a narrow victory as anything less than a mandate. His tendency has been not to co-opt the opposition but to crush it.”
On Monday, Erdogan slammed his critics at home and abroad.
“We have put up a fight against the powerful nations of the world,” he told supporters greeting him at Ankara airport after arriving from Istanbul. “The crusader mentality attacked us abroad, inside their lackeys attacked us. We did not succumb; as a nation we stood strong.”
Opposition parties, however, cried foul on the vote. Bulent Tezcan, deputy chairman of the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, cited numerous problems in the conduct of the vote.