President Erdoğan slams OSCE over referendum campaign report
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has slammed an interim report of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) on the campaign environment for Turkey’s April 16 referendum on whether to shift to an executive presidential system, declaring it “null and void.”
“They say a ‘yes’ result would lead to problems. Know your place! You don’t have such a mission. You cannot talk about what would happen if the outcome is ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ You cannot give such a report,” Erdoğan said at a rally in the Central Anatolian province of Konya.
“Whether you give [a report] or not, this nation will do what is necessary on Sunday,” he added.
Erdoğan was referring to an OSCE interim report for the referendum observation mission to Turkey between March 17 and April 7. The report noted that supporters of the “No” campaign faced bans, police interventions, and violent scuffles at their events.
The legal framework requires impartial coverage of the campaign but an emergency decree removed the Supreme Board of Elections’ (SBE) sanctioning authority for non-compliance, stated the OSCE mission.
The report noted that freedom of expression has been further curtailed by the closure of numerous media outlets and the arrest of journalists following the failed July 2016 coup attempt, as well as the legal framework for the state of emergency.
Complaints received to date are mostly related to the relocation of polling stations in the southeast provinces and campaign issues, stated the report, noting that in southeastern provinces at least 140 chairpersons nominated by opposition parties were dismissed.
Following the coup attempt, 1,583 civil society organizations were dissolved, including at least three that supported the observation efforts during the last elections, the report said. It also said some civil society organizations that observed past elections would either refrain from observing the voting or significantly limit their efforts due to the overall political and security situation.
“So far the campaign has been characterized by polarization and some restrictions. The fact that a number of political leaders and activists remain behind bars has seriously curtailed some groups’ ability to campaign. As of now, in several cases, ‘No’ supporters have faced police interventions while campaigning. A number have also been arrested on charges of insulting the president or organizing unlawful public events,” stated the mission’s report.
There are intimidation attempts against campaigners in the “no” camp ahead of Turkey’s upcoming referendum, Deutsche Welle quoted Michael Georg Link, the director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, as saying on April 5.
Noting that the referendum is “handled one-sidedly in the media,” Link also said there are “restrictions in the issues, such as news and organizing demonstrations” due to the ongoing state of emergency, declared after the July 15, 2016 military coup attempt.