First Published: 2017-04-20

Turkey rejects opposition requests to cancel referendum
Istanbul police detain 16 leftist activists involved in street demonstrations against referendum results.
Middle East Online

There have been daily street protests in anti-Erdogan neighbourhoods in Istanbul since Sunday's referendum

ANKARA - Turkey's election authority on Wednesday rejected opposition requests to cancel a referendum that boosted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's authority as police detained activists over street protests following the contested poll.

The narrow victory of the 'Yes' campaign in Sunday's referendum handed Erdogan sweeping new powers -- most of which will come into force after 2019 -- but was bitterly disputed by his rivals.

The controversy has stoked further political tensions over the rule of Erdogan, who has dominated Turkey since becoming premier in 2003 then president in 2014.

The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) had on Tuesday asked that the poll be scrapped over alleged violations.

Although the 'Yes' camp won with 51.41 percent, it was a narrower-than-expected victory with the opposition claiming the outcome would have been reversed in a fair poll.

Ten members of the Supreme Election Board (YSK) decided against annulling the vote, while only one voted in favour, the board said in a statement.

To the dismay of opposition parties and 'No' supporters, the YSK made a last-minute decision on Sunday to accept ballot papers in envelopes without an official stamp.

International observers from the OSCE and the Council of Europe rights watchdog denounced the move, saying it "removed an important safeguard".

Bulent Tezcan, CHP deputy leader, told CNN-Turk the YSK's decision to reject the petitions sparked a "serious legitimacy crisis."

- 16 protesters arrested -

Turkish police Thursday detained the editor of a website that denounced as illegitimate the victory of the 'Yes' camp in the referendum, the news site said.

Left-wing website sendika.org said its editor-in-chief Ali Ergin Demirhan was held in a pre-down raid on its offices.

Sendika.org said Demirhan was detained on accusations of "organising protests on social media while attempting to depict the results of the referendum as illegitimate" and "inciting people to enmity".

It added that his hard disk and personal cell phone were confiscated in the raid.

The news site has made clear its opposition to the result, saying "the 'Yes' will not be legitimised, sendika.org will not be silenced" and calling for protests.

Turkish media said that six people were detained in the Aegean city of Izmir on accusations of "insulting" Erdogan in public on the night of the referendum.

There have been daily street protests in anti-Erdogan neighbourhoods in Istanbul since Sunday's referendum, with thousands chanting slogans and banging pots and pans in an angry show of discontent.

Among those detained was Mesut Gecgel, the Istanbul chairman of the Freedom and Solidarity Party (ODP), a leftwing movement not represented in parliament.

The party said he was detained on accusations of "agitating the public" by claiming the 'Yes' vote was illegitimate.

Gecgel's lawyer Deniz Demirdogen said that anti-terror police raided the suspects' homes before dawn, saying 16 people were detained so far but arrest warrants had been issued for 38.

Describing the accusations as "strange", he added: "They are accused of provoking people to question the legitimacy of the 'Yes' in the referendum.

"But there's no such crime definition in the penal code."

Speaking in Ankara earlier, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the matter of the election result was closed and warned against further protests.

"Turkey is a state of law... and there can be no talk of anarchy, activities in the street," he said.

"I call on people not to give in to provocations or get caught up in incitement."

- 'All legal paths' -

CHP spokeswoman Selin Sayek Boke vowed that the party would use all means to challenge the result and called for a re-run of the vote.

"We will use all the legal paths and all legitimate democratic rights... No-one should doubt this," she told reporters in Ankara, saying such steps could even include "withdrawing from parliament".

But Levent Gok, CHP's parliamentary group leader, later rejected the idea of boycotting parliament, saying it would use "all legitimate means" to protect the parliament.

Turkey's leading satirical weekly Penguen meanwhile took a light-hearted but cutting look at the situation by printing a blank cover.

"From now on, covers without cartoons will also be counted as valid," said the caption, in reference to the controversy over the counting of unstamped ballots.

- 'Trump makes us happy' -

The referendum has also caused new friction in Turkey's relationship with the European Union, which it has long sought to join but which gave the 'Yes' victory the most lukewarm welcome.

By contrast, Donald Trump joined Russian President Vladimir Putin in congratulating Erdogan, with the Turkish strongman expressing optimism over his relationship with the new US leader.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters in Ankara that Trump and Erdogan would meet in May before a NATO summit.

"The way president Trump is approaching these matters makes us happy," Erdogan told CNN in an interview.

 

US-Russia rift threatens fragile prospects for Syria peace

Lebanon's Hariri arrives in Paris

Riyadh striking deals with people detained in anti-graft purge

Syria troops, allies retake most of Albu Kamal from IS

Football club a symbol for Swedish-Kurdish cohesion

EU cuts funding to Turkey in 2018 budget

Egypt opens Gaza border for first time since unity deal

'Caliphate' in tatters but IS still a threat

Saudi Arabia recalls ambassador to Berlin over Gabriel Lebanon comments

Russia again vetoes renewal of Syria gas attacks probe

UN weighs bid to save Syria gas attacks probe

IS attack kills 26 displaced people in Syria

Saudi FM says Lebanon 'held hostage by Hezbollah'

Egypt to open Rafah crossing for 3 days

Turkish troops pulled from NATO drill amid new tensions

Six children among civilians killed in shelling of Eastern Ghouta

US official calls on Sudan to stop 'church demolitions'

Hariri set to leave Saudi Arabia for France

Fears of bombs, IS cells still haunt Mosul

Iraq retakes Rawa, last town held by IS

Iran criticises French Mideast policy

Russia again blocks UN resolution on Syria action

Israel military chief says ready to cooperate with Saudi Arabia

Egypt confirms death of wanted jihadist

UK denies link between citizen detained in Iran and £400m debt

Qatar sets temporary minimum wage for migrant workers

Top US official begins Sudan trip

Hamas says Israeli assassins in Tunisia used Bosnian passports

Syria army enters last IS-held town

France worried by Iran's 'hegemonic' intentions

Russia, Turkey, Iran to hold Syria summit

Saudi FM rejects accusations Hariri in Saudi Arabia against his will

Lebanon’s president awaits Hariri return before next move

Iran pushing for Hamas-Hezbollah reconciliation

French PM in Rabat to boost trade, cooperation

Ankara bans German gay film festival

Lebanon PM to travel to Paris

Libyan fighter jets strike IS camp south of Sirte

Russia, US headed for UN showdown over Syria gas attacks probe

Palestinians wait as Egypt keeps border closed

UN fails to push Saudi coalition to lift Yemen blockade

Erdogan pledges military support for Qatar on Doha visit

France pursues tough line on Iran missile programme

flydubai orders 737 MAXs worth $27bn from Boeing

Sudanese journalists oppose new press law