by Ela Gonca IzmirliIn reaction to Turkey’s Supreme Electoral Council’s (YSK) last minute controversial rule change, Turkish citizens spontaneously started taking to the streets in many cities across the country. The protests began immediately after the referendum results were announced in many districts of Istanbul and Ankara. Many people simultaneously started protesting from their homes with pots and pans shouting “They’re robbing us!”
Turks on Sunday voted by a narrow margin to amend their Constitution to grant the President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan sweeping new powers. The opposition parties have demanded a recount citing irregularities and the sudden rule change.
Hundreds of protesters gathered in Besiktas, Istanbul while another group of demonstrators marched through Kadikoy, Istanbul; both staunchly secular neighborhoods. The group walking in Kadikoy marched towards the offices of the Election Board shouting “We will not make you president” and “no has won.”
There were reports of 31 people being detained during the protests across Turkey.
Head of the delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Cezar Florin Preda that monitored the vote, joined by Tana de Zulueta, head of the ODIHR limited election observation mission, held a news conference in Ankara and both agreed that the referendum fell short of international standards.
“The referendum took place in a political environment in which fundamental freedoms essential to a genuinely democratic process were curtailed under the state of emergency, and the two sides did not have equal opportunities to make their case to the voters,” said Tana de Zulueta.
OSCE issued a scathing verdict for Turkey’s referendum earlier Monday.
The foreign ministry on Monday slammed the international observers’ criticism for being “biased and prejudiced” in a statement adding that it was “unacceptable” to imply that the referendum fell short of international standards.
Main opposition CHP’s deputy Bulent Tezcan, however, said that they had received complaints from many election districts about privacy during voting and ballot counting irregularities adding that the decision of the YSK election board is clearly against the law. He said the CHP will submit complaints to election authorities and to the YSK and, depending on the result of those appeals, would go to Turkey’s constitutional court, the European Human Court of Rights and any other relevant authority.
The new system would dispense with the office of prime minister and centralize the entire executive bureaucracy around the presidency, giving the President the direct power to appoint vice president and the ministers. Under the new constitution President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who became president in 2014, could seek two more five-year terms after 2019, leaving him in power until 2029.
Deputy prime minister, Mehmet Simsek, meanwhile said relations with the European Union would eventually get back to normal, adding that some of the “noise” between Ankara and Europe should die down soon after the election cycle in Europe is over.
Speaking at a rally in Ankara on Monday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that some European countries had opposed him winning the referendum more than members of the Turkish opposition. “Know your place first,” Erdogan said chiding the election monitors in an address to supporters outside his vast presidential complex in Ankara.
“We will not listen to, nor will we read your politically motivated reports. We will continue on our path. We don’t care” Mr. Erdogan said about the OSCE/ODIHR/PACE report.