International election observers have slammed the handling of Turkey’s constitutional referendum. The OSCE published a joint statement citing a lack of equal opportunities, one-sided media coverage and limitations on fundamental freedoms for creating an uneven playing field.
“In general, the referendum did not live up to Council of Europe standards. The legal framework was inadequate for the holding of a genuinely democratic process.”
“The referendum took place in a political environment in which fundamental freedoms essential to a genuinely democratic process were curtailed under the state of emergency, and the two sides did not have equal opportunities to make their case to the voters, said Tana de Zulueta, Head of the ODIHR limited election observation mission.
“Our monitoring showed the ‘Yes’ campaign dominated the media coverage and this, along with restrictions on the media, the arrests of journalists and the closure of media outlets, reduced voters’ access to a plurality of views.”
Cezar Florin Preda, the Head of the PACE delegation added:
“The 16th April constitutional referendum took place on an unlevel playing field and the two side of the campaign did not have equal opportunities. Voters were not provided with impartial information about key aspect of the reform.”
Germany, home to the largest number of Turks outside Turkey, said the apparent closeness of the result highlights a deep division in the country.
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel called on leaders inside and outside Turkey to “keep a cool head” going forward.
“The result shows that Turkish society is deeply divided. It will largely depend on whether President Erdogan does everything possible to go after his opponents… We in Europe have to think about what possibilities we have to exert influence so that the country remains democratic.”
France echoed the sentiments and has joined other EU members in calling on Erdogan to think carefully before holding a vote on reinstating the death penalty. Its return would, they warn, close the door on EU membership negotiations definitively.