ReutersVIENNA/BERLIN (Reuters) — Up to 2.5 million votes could have been manipulated in Sunday’s Turkish referendum that ended in a close “yes” vote for greater presidential powers, an Austrian member of the Council of Europe observer mission said on Tuesday.
However Turkish authorities are not cooperating with efforts to investigate claims of possible election fraud, according to a senior official in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which conducted a separate monitoring mission.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has dismissed criticisms of the vote, saying foreign observers should “know their place.” The foreign ministry said foreign monitors lacked objectivity and impartiality.
The mission of observers from the 47-member Council of Europe, the continent’s leading human rights body, had already pronounced the referendum to be an uneven contest. Support for “yes” dominated campaign coverage, and the arrests of journalists and closure of media outlets silenced other views, according to Council of Europe and OSCE monitors.
Alev Korun, an Austrian member of the Council’s observer team, said there were also questions about the actual voting.
“This is about the fact that actually the law only allows official voting envelopes. The highest election authority decided however — as it were, against the law — that envelopes without official stamp should be admitted,” she told ORF radio.
“There is a suspicion that up to 2.5 million votes could have been manipulated,” added Korun, a Greens member of the Austrian Parliament. That number of votes would be almost double the margin of Erdogan’s victory.
Michael Georg Link, who headed the OSCE observer mission, said Turkey was not helping an investigation into possible irregularities, and Ankara’s questioning of OSCE neutrality was “clearly politically motivated.”
He declined comment on a possible change in the result of the referendum after any recount, but said the election commission’s decision to allow incorrectly or non-stamped envelopes was a definite violation of Turkish law.
Putin offers congratulations
ANKARA (Reuters) — Russian President Vladimir Putin has called his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan and congratulated him for winning the referendum, Turkish presidential sources said on Tuesday.