The question now is whether Europe can and will step in to keep Turkey’s leader from expanding his powers. Turkey’s main opposition party announced Wednesday it will challenge President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s April 16 referendum victory to replace the country’s parliamentary democracy with an all-powerful “presidential system.” The opposition will ask the European Court of Human Rights to render judgment, a day after Turkey’s top administrative court ruled it lacked jurisdiction over the electoral body whose oversight of the voting has sparked daily nationwide protests. “We faced illegal referendum results after seeing an unverified election,” Selin Sayek Boke, a spokeswoman for the Republican People’s Party told journalists in Ankara. “Our priority is standing up for the legal rights of all citizens. Thus, we would like to announce that we will soon apply to the ECHR.”
Turkey’s Council of State, one of two top judicial bodies in the country, ruled in a 4-1 vote Tuesday not to review the decision of the Supreme Electoral Council, citing specific language in the Turkish Constitution that bars courts from overturning the electoral overseers’ decision.
The electoral council is expected to issue a final tally of the votes in the coming days, but it has said the preliminary result — with 51.4% of voters approving sweeping constitutional amendments and 48.6% opposed — is correct. But the main opposition party, along with a number of civil society groups, have collected evidence of what they say is up to 2 million votes cast fraudulently or that need to be reexamined.
With just under an hour left before polls closed, the council announced it would disregard voting procedures and allow potentially suspect ballots to be counted. Ballots, as well as the envelopes they are sealed in, are required to have a stamp from electoral observers on them to ensure their validity. But after a last-minute request from an observer from the ruling AK Party, the electoral council ordered that the possibly irregular ballots be counted. Many officials added the missing stamps to the ballots before counting them, making it impossible to separate them for any recount. In a 2014 election in which unstamped ballots were counted, the electoral body ordered the vote be repeated.