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Top Turkish court rejects opposition's referendum challenge

AFP archive

A top Turkish court on Tuesday rejected an opposition legal challenge to an April 16 referendum that gave President Recep Tayyip Erdogan greater powers. Opposition activists had filed a complaint over last-minute changes to voting rules.

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The opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) has repeatedly criticised a ruling by the country's top election authority, the Supreme Election Board, to accept ballots in envelopes without an official stamp, arguing that the decision left the vote open to fraud.

The party launched a bid to annul the referendum last week, formally lodging a petition on Friday with the Council of State, Turkey's highest administrative court, after the "Yes" side won 51.4 percent of the vote.

The court rejected its challenge by majority vote, saying it could not rule on the election board's move because it was "not an administrative procedure", state-run news agency Anadolu reported. Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said Saturday that decisions made by the election authority could neither be challenged in the Constitutional Court nor the Council of State.

Levent Gok, CHP's parliamentary group leader, immediately hit back, accusing Bozdag of giving "instructions" to the judges before they had made a decision.

Turkey will implement an executive presidency from November 2019, axing the role of prime minister and empowering the president to appoint ministers.

International monitors, including from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, have also noted irregularities in the vote that gave Erdogan a narrow win.

Lawmakers at the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly voted to put Turkey on a monitoring watchlist on Tuesday, citing concerns over what they say is the stifling of dissent and rights violations under Erdogan as he concentrates his power.

The vote to open the formal procedure against Ankara passed with 113 votes in favour versus 45 against. The Council of Europe is a human rights body of which Turkey is a member.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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