Turkey’s high election board has rejected formal calls by the country’s main opposition parties to annul the result of a referendum that will grant Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sweeping new powers as president. Voters narrowly approved a set of constitutional reforms that will transform the country from a parliamentary democracy into a presidential republic, concentrating power in the hands of Erdoğan, who will be able to run for two more terms and potentially govern until 2029. The Turkish president has been handed the chance to declare himself as the only fit protector of a besieged state and its vulnerable people The two main opposition parties – the Republican People’s party (CHP) and the People’s Democratic party (HDP) – had lodged formal complaints calling for the annulment of the result, citing a controversial last-minute decision by the board to allow the counting of possibly hundreds of thousands of unstamped ballots. The constitutional amendments passed with a margin of just over a million votes. International observers had said the decision to count the ballots “contradicted the law” and removed a safeguard against fraud.
But the board said in a statement on Wednesday that its members had rejected all of the appeals in a 10-1 vote. It cited precedents in which it had accepted unstamped ballots as valid due to the incompetence or lack of training of local ballot box officers who had failed to stamp them in time for elections.
The decision upholds the result of the landmark referendum, which has polarised Turkey in the last few months and highlighted the splits in a society that is still reeling from a coup attempt last year and repeated terror attacks by Islamic State and Kurdish separatists.