Erdoğan Claims Ultimate Power in Turkey After Nearly Split Vote

As one opponent of the referendum noted: “Threats, oppression, imprisonment, censorship, defamation—and yet half of the people of Turkey voted” against.

By Lauren McCauley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 4-16-2017

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, image via internet blogspot

In a very close—and closely watched—referendum vote, Turks on Sunday handed President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan what many say is authoritarian rule.

With more than 99 percent of ballots counted, Erdoğan claimed a win with 51.36 percent voting in favor of the referendum and 48.64 voting against.

However, the Guardian reported,

disparities persisted into Sunday evening, with the opposition saying not all ballots had been counted and they would contest a third of the votes that had been cast. [Sadi Guven, the head of Turkey’s high electoral board, or YSK] said the YSK had decided to consider unstamped ballots as valid unless they were proved to be fraudulent after a high number of complaints—including one from the ruling AK Party—that its officials had failed to stamp some ballot papers.

The no campaign said the YSK’s last-minute decision raised questions about the validity of the vote. […]

If confirmed, the vote will “transform Turkey into a presidential republic, in what would be one of the most significant developments in the nation’s history since its founding after the collapse of the Ottoman empire,” the Guardian reported earlier Sunday.

The referendum includes a series of constitutional amendments that would dissolve the role of the prime minister, centralizing state bureaucracy under the president while also giving him control of the judiciary. Further, it would allow Erdoğan to run for two more election terms and essentially “rule by decree,” as Common Dreams previously wrote.

Polling ahead of the election had been close. However, as observers noted, many against the changes were afraid to speak out due to the widespread crackdown on dissent imposed by Erdoğan after last summer’s failed coup attempt, which included the jailing of top political opponents and dozens of journalists.

While proponents of the referendum dominated the newspapers and airwaves, a split opposition led by Turkish citizens, largely the women, spread their message on social media using the hashtag #hayir (or “no”).

Indeed, while the ruling Justice and Development Party (or AKP Party) celebrated, many took to social media to express their dismay at the declared results and to point out that nearly half of the voters did not support the consolidation of power.

Further, the three largest cities—Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir—all voted against the referendum as did the majority of Kurdish voters indicating, as the Guardian observed, “a general decline in the ruling party’s support.

Highlighting the fierce divisions over the vote, Turkish journalist Ali Bayramoğlu was reportedly “attacked by a group of around 30 people” when he went to cast his vote. Bayramoğlu, who Hurryiet noted was formerly a “supporter of the ruling [AKP Party] but a vocal ‘No’ supporter in this referendum, was verbally and physically assaulted at an Elementary School polling place in the Gayrettepe district of Istanbul.

For an excellent article about what the election means: RIP Turkey, 1921 – 2017

 

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