Turkey's main opposition began a battle on Tuesday to annul a referendum handing President Tayyip Erdogan sweeping new powers, while the bar association and an international monitor said an illegal move by electoral authorities may have swung the vote.
Opposition parties say the vote was rigged. The main opposition party formally asked Turkey’s electoral commission Tuesday afternoon to reassess the contents of multiple ballot boxes and — in a separate appeal — to annul the entire poll result.
Turkey's bar association said a last-minute decision by the YSK electoral board to allow unstamped ballots in the referendum was clearly against the law, prevented proper records being kept, and may have impacted the results.
And two major international observation missions have a list of concerns over irregularities during the campaign and on the day of the vote.
Kerem Gulay, an expert on Turkish electoral law at the University of Amsterdam law school, said, “Changing the rules of the game after the voting started and half an hour before voting in the eastern provinces stopped — I haven’t heard of anything like that in recent electoral history worldwide.”
Other concerns raised by the opposition and by election observers include:
-An Austrian member of the Council of Europe observer mission said up to 2.5 million votes could have been manipulated, almost double the margin of Erdogan's victory, and that the YSK decision on unstamped ballots appeared illegal.
-Suspicions of ballot-box stuffing in “almost all” of Turkey’s 165,000 ballot boxes, according to the Republican People’s Party, or C.H.P., the main opposition party.
-A decision by the electoral commission, made during the vote itself, to significantly increase the burden needed to prove allegations of ballot-box stuffing.
-The barring of over 170 members of the opposition from participating in election observation.
-The temporary detainment of some international election observers, preventing them from fully observing election counts.
-Minimal “no” votes in an opposition stronghold in southern Turkey.
-At least one allegation of “no” votes being removed from ballot boxes and deposited in a building site in the same area of southern Turkey.
-The unfairness of the campaign itself, which observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe described as taking place on “an unlevel playing field.”
-Specific allegations of ballot-box stuffing emerged in the southern province of Sanliurfa. In one district, “no” voters formed less than 1 percent of the total, even though the H.D.P. won over half the votes in the area at the last parliamentary elections, in November 2015.
Turkey’s electoral commission has delayed announcing an official result, and it said it would assess allegations of fraud.
However few in Turkey expect legal challenges to the referendum to lead to a recount, let alone a re-run.
But if unresolved, they will leave deep questions over the legitimacy of a vote which split the electorate, and indeed the whole of Turkey, right down the middle.