Narrow “Yes” in Turkey’s Constitutional Referendum Leaves Questions Unanswered

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Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has won a vote for a revised Constitution expanding his powers, but only by a narrow margin.

“Evet” (Yes) took 51.4% and “hayir” (No) 48.6%. More than 58 million votes were cast in a turnout of more than 84%.

See Divided Nationalism: Explaining Turkey’s Referendum on Erdoğan’s Power

Amid the tight result, some opposition parties questioned whether there had been manipulation to ensure the triumph for an executive Presidential system to replace the parliamentary approach. Critics also noted that — with the State controlling much of the media and courts, as well as detaining journalists and activists — the Yes campaign had a significant advantage.

Turkey’s cities voted No — Ankara and Istanbul by narrow margins, and Izmir by more than 2 to 1. However, the Yes campaign triumphed in many rural areas, especially along the Black Sea, and among Turkish citizens living abroad.

Most voters affiliated the right-wing nationalist MHP, which backed Yes, supported the revised Constitution; however, there were pockets of resistance. Similarly, while the largely-Kurdish southeast voted No, the Yes campaign was able to take about 1/3 of the ballots.

Erdoğan said, “With the people, we have realised the most important reform in our history.” He warned opponents not to protest the result, “[They] shouldn’t try, it will be in vain.”

The vice-chairman of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) said they would contest 37% of the votes that were counted.

Well before Sunday’s vote, Erdoğan and the ruling AKP had extended their power in practice, if not in law. Purges throughout and beyond the State, especially after a failed coup in July 2016, had detained thousands of military and civil officials, judges, journalists, and activists. Tens of thousands were purged from the civil service, academia, and other sectors. Some broadcasters and newspapers were shut down and others taken over by the State, with an accompanying crackdown on websites critical of the Government.

TOP PHOTO: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his wife Emine cast their ballots on Sunday

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Scott Lucas is Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and editor-in-chief of EA WorldView. He is a specialist in US and British foreign policy and international relations, especially the Middle East and Iran. Formerly he worked as a journalist in the US, writing for newspapers including the Guardian and The Independent and was an essayist for The New Statesman before he founded EA WorldView in November 2008.

8 COMMENTS

  1. A clearly rigged vote plenty of fake ballots, especially in Kurdish areas where local administrations were removed. So high election official stated that non validated ballots were being counted.

    • They are not non-validated. They are valid ballots with watermark and used by real people whose Id’s were checked and signed the paper after dropping their ballots into the ballot box. At all the stages of the election (including counting) representatives of the parties were present.

      Some of those ballots were unstamped due to the negligency of some local election administrations. Stamping the ballots is just another way to protect the ballot, not the only one.

  2. Stamping verified person was present when ballot was filled out. No stamp means ballots could have been pre or post stuffed in ballot boxes. Plus there were not opposition party watchers in most Kurdish areas. So called neutral is a trick Assad used .

    • Every ballot box has its registered voters and this information is published before the election. So if you pre or post stuff the box then you exceed the number of votes that could be in that box and it is immediately caught. Besides as i said earlier there are representatives of every party. In order someone to know that votes weren’t stamped he should be there in the first place right? Opposition watchers being absent in most kurdish areas is an outright lie. In at least half of the kurdish areas result was no. Some examples: no\yes ratio
      Van (57\43), Diyarbakır (68\32), Hakkari (68\32)

      You can check the complete list from here:

      http://referandum.ntv.com.tr/

      • No vote should have been much higher in Kurdish areas. Unless you were present at each voting location you can not be sure what happened.

        • Exactly, unless you were present at each voting location you can’t be sure what happened. So you can’t be sure that election is rigged unless you have hard evidence.

          The reason no vote isn’t as high as expected has two reasons. First some kurds who previously voted for HDP didn’t vote and stayed neutral. Second, there is a trend among kurds starting with nov 2015 election that some of them are returning to AKP. For example I have a kurdish colleague who never voted for AKP previously, voted for AKP in nov 2015 election and voted yes in this referendum. July 15 coup attempt also had an effect on undecided people. Many kurds who prefer a strong civilian administration who can stand against military when it is necessary voted yes.

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