OSCE: Turkish Referendum Unfair, Democracy at Risk

The preliminary findings of the OSCE’s International Referendum Observation Mission paint a grim picture of the constitutional referendum in Turkey, which were held “on an unlevel playing field” without both sides in the campaign having “equal opportunities.” Because of the state of emergency that was declared after the failed coup in July 2016, “fundamental freedoms essential to a democratic process were curtailed,” while “the dismissal or detention of thousands of citizens negatively affected the political environment.”

The constitutional referendum has given current Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan far-reaching powers, bringing

bring changes to the present parliamentary system, abolish the office of the prime minister and transfer some of the parliament’s key oversight functions to an executive presidency, increase the number of seats in parliament to 600 and empower the president to appoint some high-level positions in the judiciary.

According to the opinion of the Venice Commission, the changes will transform Turkey into a “presidential regime which lacks the necessary checks and balances required to safeguard against becoming an authoritarian one.” The Commission had also warned that “the current state of emergency does not provide for the due democratic setting for a constitutional referendum.”

President Erdoğan immediately dismissed the criticism of the OSCE, in a manner which may sound familiar to Albanian ears:

There is an organization called the OSCE in Europe. Now they are preparing a report in their own way regarding elections in Turkey. You should know your place first. We will neither see, nor hear, nor know about your political reports. We will continue on our path. Talk to the hand.

Moreover, he suggested to hold a second referendum on whether Turkey should continue its negotiations with the EU:

First and foremost, this is not a decision that they can make. But it is also not very important for us either. The European Union should make its decision and convey it to us. Now a rapporteur prepares a report, but I denounce those who house such rapporteurs. They have made us wait at the gates of the EU for 54 years. So we will sit and talk and hold a referendum on that too.