As fraud allegations over last year’s constitutional referendum continue to simmer, Turkey’s government last week rushed through parliament far-reaching changes to electoral rules, fueling fears over the integrity of upcoming polls and sparking opposition calls for an election boycott. In the April 16, 2017, referendum, which narrowly approved amendments concentrating power in the hands of the president, the Supreme Election Board (YSK) made a last-minute decision to accept ballots that did not bear the stamp of election officials, openly flouting the law and casting a lasting shadow on the outcome. Many believe the validation of unstamped votes tipped the result in favor of the “yes” camp, which won by 51.4%. Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), said in February that the actual result was 51.2% in favor of the “no” camp.
Barring a snap poll decision, Turks will vote in municipal, parliamentary and presidential elections in 2019. The presidential vote will mark the official transition to the new governance system approved in the referendum, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan standing out as the prime contender. The new electoral rules, passed by parliament March 13, grant legitimacy to unstamped ballots. This indicates that the government has indirectly acknowledged that the law was violated in the referendum that fresh controversy over the fairness of elections is now guaranteed for next year’s polls.
Soon after unstamped ballots became legal, misgivings deepened even further over reports that the YSK had printed 500 million ballot envelopes for a 55-million electorate.
Full Article: Turkey’s electoral overhaul sparks boycott calls.