There are several reasons the Turkish referendum results are called into question, the most serious being the remarkable success of the “Yes” campaign in South East Turkey.
Remarkably, calling a victory
A London based think tank, CEFTUS, framed the question of the Turkish referendum in numbers. With 600,000 ballots left to count, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim declared victory by one million votes. But, that result rests on approximately 1,5 million votes which for some inexplicable reason lack an official seal.
In vein, the opposition requested the annulment of the referendum, which the Electoral Commission (YSK) rejected.
Erdogan’s victory is not easy to celebrate.
Besides leaving the electorate deeply divided, like most referenda of this nature, the “Yes” campaign lost Izmir, Ankara, and Istanbul. Some speculate that only 35% of the far-right nationalists MHP voters followed the party line to support “Yes”, despite the government’s unprecedented standoff with Europe and a “clash of civilizations” campaign.
Moreover, the victory itself is hard to celebrate, given the extremely narrow margin and the international outcry from the Council of Europe and the OECD. Fortunately for President Erdogan, there was a congratulatory call from President Donald Trump on Monday, accompanied with an invitation to visit Washington.
… and a Remarkable victory in South East Turkey
But, the biggest question is what happened to the Kurdish vote. Apparently, 16 million Kurds went to the polls and the majority voted “Yes.” That is remarkable.
By President Erdogan’s own admission, that would mean Kurds went to the polls to support AKP and “Yes” in massively greater numbers than they did in the general elections of June and November 2015. That is 400,000 greater numbers.
Votes in Kurdish majority towns, huge increase for Erdogan
– Red: June 2015 elex
– Yellow: November 2015 elex
– Blue: 2017 referendum pic.twitter.com/kJeGLadw4x
— Ragıp Soylu (@ragipsoylu) April 16, 2017
Without a blink, the AKP administration is celebrating its ability to swing the Kurdish vote to the “Yes” campaign.
The pro-government Daily Sabah even celebrates how civilians rewarded the government’s campaign against the PKK and its investment public order, massively rallying behind President Erdogan. “By making a very clear distinction between the Kurds and the PKK, President Erdoğan and the government have won the Kurdish confidence again,” columnist Ibrahim Kalin argues.
Other analysts have argued that the AKP movement has been building an alliance with Islamist Kurdish groups, undermining support for the mostly secular-minded PKK. And that is truly remarkable given the political context.
Since July 2015 there is a resurgent conflict with the PKK in South East Turkey. Since December 2015, the AKP administration has been engaged in a conflict that has led to the destruction of several towns and the displacement of thousands, combatants, and civilians.
Meanwhile, approximately 10,000 members officials of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) are in jail (HDP), that is, the largest pro-Kurdish party. That includes its leaders Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, as well as 12 MPs. A draft HDP report on the referendum shared with Al-Monitor alleges widespread misconduct including voter intimidation, repeat voting and ballot stuffing. That too, is a truly remarkable claim.