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Turkish Election Officials Reject Calls for Referendum Re-Vote


Supporters of the 'no' vote, one waving a Turkish flag with a picture of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey participate in a protest regarding the referendum, in Istanbul, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Election officials in Turkey have rejected all objections to last Sunday’s special election on presidential powers. They will not honor calls for a new vote.

Turkish citizens voted on a proposal to amend the constitution and expand the powers of the president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Officials say 51 percent of voters supported the plan, while 49 percent opposed.

The constitutional amendments give Erdogan the ability to create a powerful presidency from the current parliamentary system of government.

The amendments end the office of prime minister as well as the official neutrality of Turkey’s president. They let the president lead a political party, declare states of emergency and set the national budget.

Critics have argued the amendments are almost like creating an elected dictatorship.

The election results have led to protests in Istanbul and other cities. Protesters say some voters marked more than one ballot in the referendum.

Demonstrators are also unhappy with the decision by Turkey’s Supreme Election board during the vote to accept ballots without an official stamp. Under Turkey’s election law, all ballots and the envelope they are placed in have to have an official stamp -- a measure to prevent cheating.

On Wednesday, hundreds of people demonstrated on the Asian side of Istanbul. The area is home to many opponents of the president.

Some protesters shouted, “Erdogan a thief, Erdogan a murderer."

“The vote was unfair,” said one woman. “We don't want one-man rule. We just want democracy for everyone.”

Similar protests were held across Istanbul. The demonstrations were smaller than Monday, when thousands took to the streets. Demonstrations were also held in other cities, including Ankara.

In general, Turkish security forces have stayed away from the protesters. Troops have powers to stop demonstrations, under rules announced after a government overthrow attempt failed last July. Usually those powers are used to control anti-government protests.

Early Wednesday, security forces carried out raids across Istanbul. Turkey’s state-operated news agency says 19 people were detained for reportedly using the results of the constitutional referendum to organize “unauthorized demonstrations.”

Riot police stand guard as hundreds of people queue in front of Turkey's Supreme Electoral Board in Ankara, Turkey, Tuesday, April 18, 2017.
Riot police stand guard as hundreds of people queue in front of Turkey's Supreme Electoral Board in Ankara, Turkey, Tuesday, April 18, 2017.

Growing numbers of videos and photographs reportedly taken during the referendum have appeared on social media. Some are said to provide evidence of vote-stuffing. Many pictures are from Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast. Much of the area has increased security as armed forces battle supporters of the Kurdish separatist group PKK.

In recent weeks, the pro-Kurdish party HDP urged voters to reject the amendments. Yet, several areas where the party usually has strong support recorded a large number of ‘yes’ votes in the referendum.

The HDP and the main opposition CHP, or Republican People’s Party, have refused to recognize the election results. Both groups had called on the election board to cancel the results.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim pushed back on Wednesday. He told reporters, “It is unacceptable for the main opposition party not to acknowledge results which the public has already acknowledged."

[On] Wednesday night, a member of CHP said his party plans to go to Turkey’s top court to overturn an election board decision on the referendum. The board’s members ruled in a 10-to-one vote in support of the election results.

Mehmet Hamidi Yakupoglu is the Republican People’s Party’s representative to the electoral board. He said the CHP won’t give up on voters who opposed the changes. He said the party’s next stop is Turkey’s constitutional court and, if it is unsuccessful there, then the European Court of Human Rights.

The Associated Press reported his comments.

I’m John Russell.

And I'm Jonathan Evans.

Dorian Jones reported on this story for VOANews.com. George Grow adapted his report for Learning English. His story includes information from the Associated Press and the Reuters news service. Caty Weaver was the editor.

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Words in This Story

unauthorizedadj. without permission; not approved by officials

stamp – n. a piece of paper placed on a document

envelopen. a paper container, often used to hold a letter

acknowledgev. to recognize the rights or value of something

referendum – n. an event in which the citizens of a country vote for or against a proposal on a given issue

vote-stuffingn. the custom of one person marking more than one ballot during an election

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