Turkish bar association says electoral board violated law during referendum

Turkish bar association says electoral board violated law during referendum

Turkish bar association says electoral board violated law during referendum

AP photo

A last-minute decision by Turkey’s electoral board to allow unstamped ballots in the April 16 constitutional referendum was “clearly against the law,” preventing proper records being kept and potentially impacting the result, the Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TBB) has stated.

“With this illegal decision, ballot box councils [officials at polling stations] were misled into believing that the use of unstamped ballots was appropriate,” the TBB said in a statement released late on April 17, adding that the announcement of the Supreme Election Board (YSK) “is clearly against the law.”

“The YSK announcement … led to irregularities and the prevention of records that could uncover irregularities,” it stated. 

The YSK decision to accept unstamped ballot papers “unless it can be proved that they were brought from outside the voting room” sparked a major debate on the results of the referendum, in which the “Yes” campaign emerged as the winner with some 51.4 percent of the votes. 

Referring to the 79th article of the constitution, the TBB said it expected the YSK to now realize its constitutional responsibilities in evaluating complaints. 

“Otherwise it will be impossible to say the referendum was being held under judicial guarantee, that it was fair, that the results were viable, and that a state order was in place where the law is superior. We are not sad about the results of the referendum, but rather the willingness to ignore the clear contradictions that could impact the result and are unlawful,” it added. 

Saying the bar association formed a center for ballot box security as part of their duty to protect the superiority of the law, the TBB noted that it had answered citizens’ question throughout the day, while mostly receiving complaints on unstamped ballot papers. 

“A majority of the calls all over Turkey were about unstamped ballot papers. The legal advice of our lawyers was to record them after the ballot boxes were opened, because the law says that unstamped ballot papers are invalid. While the voting was ongoing, the YSK announced its decision. In fact, two hours earlier the YSK cited the reason for stamping ballot papers as the prevention of fake ballot papers from being used. As a result of the YSK decision, it was impossible to prove whether ballot papers were brought from the outside, because the only proof is the lack of a stamp,” the TBB also stated.