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Turkey referendum 'below international standards', says European observer mission

YASIN AKGUL / AFP | This picture shows the front pages of Turkish newspapers a day after Turkey's referendum: Hurriyet (top) headlines with "New System", Star headlines with 'Victory of People', on April 17, 2017

An international observer mission, who monitored voting in Turkey’s referendum on Sunday, said procedures "fell short" of the international standards Turkey had signed up to.

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However,Turkey's own electoral board confirmed the "yes" victory and said the final official results would be declared in 11-12 days. The state-run Anadolu Agency said the "yes" side stood at 51.4 percent of the vote, while the "no" vote saw 48.6 percent support.

The ‘win’ could cement President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's hold on power in Turkey for a decade.

Questionable votes

However, Tana de Zulueta, head of the observer mission of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe specifically criticised a decision by Turkey's electoral board to accept ballots that did not have official stamps, saying it removed key safeguards and undermined the fight against fraud. The system is designed to ensure that only one vote is cast per registered person and to avoid the possibility of ballot box-stuffing.

'It is not a victory, it is the beginning of his fall', speaking of Erdogan's win.

De Zulueta added that the procedural changes contradicted Turkey’s own laws.

The Turkish foreign ministry rejected the international monitors' findings as "politically motivated".

France: “Turkey divided”

Europe reacted cautiously to the narrowly won referendum with French President François Hollande issuing a statement on Monday saying it is up to the Turkish people to decide on their political institutions. However, he added that the results clearly showed that “Turkish society is divided about the planned significant reforms."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel in a joint statement issued on Sunday said that Erdogan carries a "big responsibility" for the country's next steps.

Both leaders pointed to concerns raised last week by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe who had expressed doubt about whether the conditions for the vote were fair. They said that Turkey - as an OSCE member and European Union candidate country – needed to consider these concerns.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AP)
 

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