Erdogan says efforts to contest Turkish referendum are futile


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday snuffed critics' hopes that a referendum result to give his office more powers could be overturned, confirming that any attempts to annul the vote were futile.

Opposition parties had filed petitions to annul the outcome of the referendum, which in preliminary counting saw 51.4 percent of Turks vote to transform their country from a parliamentary system into a presidential one.

But on Wednesday the election commission rejected the bids, in a move welcomed by the Turkish government.

Any continuing efforts to demand the referendum be overturned are pointless, Erdogan said in comments to English-language broadcaster A Haber.

He called the commission's decision final and said the matter had been settled. Turkey's justice minister reiterated that stance earlier on Thursday.

"Our constitution clearly states that the decisions of the election commission are final and that there are no places to contest these decisions," Bekir Bozdag said, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency. "Even if such a complaint was filed, the constitutional court would have no choice but to reject it," the minister said.

The commission's decision on Wednesday caused protests on the streets of Istanbul and prompted opposition parties to announce their intention to take the claim to the country's top court. But Erdogan was quoted by A Haber as saying that the matter is not one that can be decided by the Constitutional Court or the European Court of Human Rights.

His opponents claim there were irregularities and possible fraud on election day, pointing in particular to the election commission's decision allowing unsealed ballots to be counted.

Amid concerns that the country is becoming increasingly authoritarian under Erdogan's rule, police raided the office of a left-wing opposition website,, and arrested editor-in-chief Ali Ergin Demirhan on charges of not recognising the referendum result.

The website said that Demirhan had been arrested on charges including incitement and calls to protest via social media and that police had seized his computer and mobile phone during the raid in Istanbul.  

An employee of the website said that the Turkish authorities have repeatedly attempted to shut the website down, but that they have been able to continue operating using different IP addresses. Three members of the June Movement, an opposition organisation that has organised protests against the vote outcome, have also been detained, according to the group's Twitter page.

Meanwhile, Erdogan said on Thursday that the fact that a large proportion of Turks living outside Turkey had voted in favour of his reforms was a direct result of bans on campaigning in those countries.

"See what happened," he told Anadolu. "You can't suppress the will of the people with force and violence."

In Germany, 63 percent of Turks voted to give Erdogan more powers, while it was even higher in the Netherlands at 71 percent and Austria at 73 percent.

All three countries had barred Erdogan's ministers from campaigning for a "Yes" vote during the referendum campaign, igniting a heated war of words between Ankara and European leaders.

Responding to comments made by German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel that his plans to reintroduce the death penalty would spell an end to Turkey's dream of joining Europe, Erdogan said: "Then don't take us in."

He called Gabriel's comments "outrageous" and said he would ignore them. Only the Turkish parliament and people could decide about the reintroduction of the death penalty, he said.    (dpa)

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