Turkey referendum vote skewed, says European Commission

The Commission has received news of Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan's victory with skepticism, calling on an investigation into the voting process.

Umit Bektas/Reuters
People wait in line to submit their personal appeals to the High Electoral Board for annulment of the referendum, in Ankara, Turkey, April 18, 2017.

The European Commission called on Turkey on Tuesday to investigate alleged irregularities in Sunday's referendum boosting the powers of President Tayyip Erdogan and urged him to show restraint after his narrow victory.

Declining to congratulate the Turkish president, the EU executive's second official response since the vote instead focused on observer findings that the vote was skewed in Erdogan's favor without a proper legal framework and with late changes in ballot counting.

"We call on the authorities to launch a transparent investigation into these alleged irregularities," Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said when asked about the conclusions of the observer mission from the Council of Europe human rights body.

Turkey's High Electoral Board made a last-minute decision on Sunday to count ballots that had not been stamped by officials.

The European Union opposed Erdogan's bid to shift the country to a system giving the president sweeping new powers. The narrow 51.4 percent margin of victory also revealed doubts among Turkish voters about the constitutional changes.

Unlike President Trump, the EU would not congratulate Mr. Erdogan on his triumph, a Western official with knowledge of EU policy told Reuters.

"There will be no call to Erdogan from the Commission, certainly not a congratulatory call," the official said. "Turkey is sliding toward a semi-authoritarian system under one man rule."

The EU's focus now is to decide the future of Turkey's EU accession negotiations, the official said. A presidential system with few checks and balances is unlikely to meet the democratic credentials a country needs to join the bloc.

EU foreign ministers will meet on April 28 in Malta to discuss the next steps. A rapid implementation of constitutional reforms by Erdogan, taking full control of his political party and nominating senior judges, would likely strengthen the hand of countries willing to formally suspend accession talks, the official said.

Turkey, a NATO member state that began talks to join the EU in 2005, remains a crucial partner for the bloc by taking in millions of refugees fleeing from the six-year-old war in Syria.

But even before the referendum, a crackdown by Erdogan since a failed coup last July has alienated the bloc that prides itself on human rights and the rule of law. Relations have further soured since Erdogan accused the German and Dutch governments of acting like Nazis after they banned referendum campaign rallies by Turkish officials.

The European Union's offer of a revamped, broader trade pact with Ankara could still act as leverage to slow Erdogan's ambitions, however, a second Western official said.

The Commission said that any legislation bringing back the death penalty to Turkey, as pledged by Erdogan during his campaign, would certainly end Ankara's EU membership bid.

"On the death penalty ... not only is this a red line, but the reddest of all red lines," Commission spokesman Ms. Schinas said. "We have an unequivocal rejection of the death penalty."

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Turkey referendum vote skewed, says European Commission
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today