Turkish opposition appeals referendum on Erdogan powers


Reuters

* Opposition also seeks postponement of official results
    * Erdogan says people have spoken and referendum will stand
    * Pro-Kurdish party says millions of unstamped ballots
accepted

    By Gulsen Solaker and Tuvan Gumrukcu
    ANKARA, April 21 (Reuters) - Turkey's main opposition party
said it filed a court appeal on Friday against a decision by
electoral authorities to accept unstamped ballot papers in the
tightly contested referendum granting President Tayyip Erdogan
wide new powers.
    Preliminary referendum results gave a narrow 51.4 percent
approval for the biggest overhaul of Turkey's political system
since the modern state was established nearly a century ago, but
opposition parties said the poll was deeply flawed.
    Held under a state of emergency in place since a failed coup
last July, it was criticised by European election observers who
said the decision to allow unstamped ballot papers to be counted
had removed a main safeguard against voting fraud.[nL8N1HQ0W1]
    All ballot papers should have been stamped by the electoral
authority before voting started to show that they were valid.
[L8N1HT3PO]
    Erdogan and government ministers have rejected criticism of
the vote as politically motivated, and the High Electoral Board
(YSK) dismissed on Wednesday challenges by the main opposition
Republican People's Party (CHP) and two other opposition
parties.
    "We are filing an appeal to the council of state today
demanding the cancellation of the YSK decision to accept
unstamped ballots," CHP Deputy Chairman Bulent Tezcan said. The
council of state is the judicial body which handles complaints
and appeals against state and public institutions.
    Tezcan also said the CHP would demand that the official
results of the referendum be postponed until the case is
resolved. The YSK had said on Sunday it would announce final
results 11-12 days after the vote.
    The CHP and the pro-Kurdish HDP party, which says millions
of unstamped ballots were accepted, have said they could also
appeal the referendum result at the European Court of Human
Rights if their legal challenges fail in Turkish courts.
    Erdogan has dismissed them as sore losers, saying the YSK
was the final arbiter of electoral issues and neither Turkey's
Constitutional Court nor the ECHR had any jurisdiction.
    "This is over. The people have decided and the national will
has made its voice heard," he told television news station A
Haber late on Thursday.

    COMPLAINTS "USELESS"
    Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, whose post will cease to
exist once Erdogan's all-powerful presidency proposed under the
referendum comes into effect, said everyone had a right to
complain - but it would not change the outcome.
    "These are useless attempts. The YSK makes a decision on
these issues and it ends," he told reporters on Friday. "There
is no higher legal authority in this regard."
    Asked whether the European Court of Human Rights could issue
a ruling on the case, an ECHR official said that anyone could
submit an appeal to the court once they have exhausted their
options for justice at home, but that it would be difficult to
say in advance whether the court has jurisdiction.
    Turkey's bar association said this week that the last-minute
decision by the YSK electoral board to allow the unstamped
ballots was clearly against the law, prevented proper records
being kept, and may have impacted the results. [nL8N1HR1RJ]
    Few in Turkey expect legal challenges to the referendum to
lead to a recount, let alone a re-run. But if unresolved, they
will leave deep questions over the legitimacy of a vote which
split the electorate down the middle, and whose polarising
campaign drew criticism and concern from European allies.
    The HDP party, whose two co-leaders were jailed last year,
said it was determined to pursue legal appeals, but appeared to
concede there was little prospect of success.
    Going to Turkish courts or the ECHR "doesn't mean these
applications will yield a result," spokesman Osman Baydemir
said. "Applications to these mechanisms will be made to take
note in history."

 (Editing by Dominic Evans and Alison Williams)
 ((Dominic.J.Evans@Thomsonreuters.com;))

Keywords: TURKEY POLITICS/



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