International monitors deliver scathing verdict on Turkish referendum
International election monitors have delivered a scathing verdict on the conduct of Turkey's controversial referendum to grant expansive new powers to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Representatives from a coalition of international bodies said the referendum took place on an "unlevel playing field" with the "yes" campaign dominating media coverage. Voters were not provided with adequate information, opposition voices were muzzled and the rules were changed at the last minute, they said.
"The legal framework remained inadequate for the holding of a genuinely democratic referendum," the monitors' initial report stated.
The monitors — a partnership of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Council for Europe — will deliver their final report in eight weeks.
Opposition groups have vowed to challenge the outcome, as results indicated the narrowest of victories for the "yes" campaign.
Despite a state of emergency and a widespread crackdown on dissent, Erdogan succeeded in persuading only 51.4% of voters to back his constitutional upheaval.
The three biggest cities in Turkey — Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir — rejected the plans, which would abolish Turkey's system of parliamentary democracy and replace it with an executive presidency with sweeping, largely unchecked powers.
European governments acknowledged the result but bristled at a suggestion by Erdogan that he would seek the restoration of the death penalty -- a move that would sink Turkey's long-stalled bid to join the European Union. He reiterated his desire to legalize the death penalty Monday as crowds chanted: "We want capital punishment." The results cement a years-long effort by Erdogan to consolidate his position. After serving as prime minister for nearly a decade, he took over as president in 2014 and through force of personality turned a largely ceremonial role into a de facto head of government.
A failed coup last year allowed him to turn up the heat on opposition voices in the run-up to Sunday's referendum.
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