Report on violations and pressures that took place during the referendum
The report is based on the data obtained from our media research from February to April 18, covering the rights violations, pressures and unlawful practices that took place during the referendum process. We then prepared maps that demonstrate the violations and pressure chronologically recorded upto April 18. From this map it is possible to follow interactively the violations and pressure that took place in different locations around Turkey between the months of January-April. We made use of the reports published by various NGOs on the violations and added these reports in our references list. (We would like to thank Natali Arslan for the maps and GIS analyses.)
Interactive Chronological Map
The first map presents the data on the violations and pressures observed within four months and shows where they took place with two-week periods. By clicking the pause button and sliding the orange bar you may interactively examine the incidents.
On this page you can see the chronological map of incidents, without animation. By sliding the date bar or clicking on the type of violation/pressure, you can filter the results for a custom analysis.
Breakdown According to the Cities
On this page you can see the breakdown of the violations and pressures according to the city, with darker shades representing higher number of incidents.
In this report we divided the unlawful practices and violations into seven main categories and tried to present the leading examples. It is important to keep in mind that the report does not seek to be exhaustive: The data we used for the report were obtained thanks to alternative media outlets which are subjected to frequent censorship and access bans. It should be noted , in a period defined by the trampling of the press freedom that we could only follow the news on the predicaments that "No" voters went through media platforms centred on the citizen journalism. While the report was being written, one news of detention after another came, as journalists and editors working in these platforms were taken into custody.
In the period leading up to referendum, the state of emergency conditions contiuously extended since July has had a great impact. As Amnesty International noted in its report, state of emergency conditions were instrumental in "silencing the dissident voices" and led to the closure of many associations and NGOS as well as media outlets, hundreds of journalists were arrested. These very circumstances were an obstacle standing in the way of a fair and equal election.
Use of Public Resources for Propaganda
The incidents in this category, there are examples of violations such as the use of public resources for "Yes" rallies, the use of schools and mosques as spaces of propaganda and civil servants using their authority for the "Yes" campaign. Cases include civil servants working at "Yes" rallies, or being forced to attending such rallies, the use of the public servant labour for putting up "Yes" banners or taking down "No" banners, highschool students being taken to panels about "Yes" campaign and the subjection of the students who refuse such participation to disciplinary investigations or denial of their right to education altogether. It should be noted that such propaganda in the educational institutions which are supposed to give equal services to all individuals regardless of their political views have turned into an instrument of political pressure.
Transparency International Turkey's March report states that public resources were used in 19 ceremonies made for the "non-partisan" President's "Yes" campaign. The most debated case of such expenditure was that the cost of the closure of Eurasian Tunnel for AKP and MHP's rallies on 8-9 April, which is the toll of 137 thousand vehicles guaranteed to be pait to contracting firm, is to be collected from the Treasury.
While the mass media outlets and public resources were mobilized for "Yes" campaign as we have mentioned, the resources required for a "No" campaign were highly limited due to the political pressure manifesting itself in the arrest of HDP MPs and chairs and the bans against the dissidents' rallies. The President, defined as "non-partisan" in law, frequently targeted the citizens that will vote "No", declaring them "seperatists" and "pro-July 15" This category includes incidents related to political pressures against the voters that will vote "No" and political institutions of the opposition.
Threats and Assaults
Aside from the political pressures, the social polarization was influential in the increase of threats and assaults against the "No" campaigners such as the members of parties such as HDP, CHP, United June Movement (Birleşik Haziran Hareketi), TKP and journalists.
In spite of the fact that some of the threats deliberately came from the social media accounts of members of AKP or of public figures affiliated with the government, none were subject to an investigation or a sentence. We believe that such impunity form a fertile ground for threats and assaults. Therefore, even if all of the physical and psychological assaults against the "No" campaigners are not documented, it can be suggested that within such circumstances the mass of voters that have announced their "No" votes or was inclined to vote "No" were rendered vulnerable against such attacks.
Censorship and bans against the “No” campaigns
The bans and censorship against the "No" campaigns in contrast to the endless support and resources given to "Yes" campaign, were another injustice in the period leading to the referendum. Cases of the bans against "No" rallies, their cancellation at the last minute, "No" posters getting torn apart or not allowed on billboards, Human Rights Association (İHD) observation committees banned from access to voting sites are listed in this category.
Of all these cases, perhaps the most obvious one was the airtime given to different parties on national TV channels. According to the report written by Union for Democracy Initiative (Demokrasi için Birlik Girişimi), based on the broadcasts of 17 national channels on the month of March, 53.5 hours were given to the Presidency, 83 to AKP, 17 to CHP, 14.5 to MHP and only 33 minutes to HDP in news bulletins between March 1-10. On the live broadcasts between March 1-20, 2017, Erdoğan received 169 hours of coverage, AKP 301.5 while MHP got only 15.5 hours. Of the parties that declared their "No" vote, CHP got 4.5 hours whereas HDP got none at all.
Another frequently observed case was the constant censorship and sentences against the "No" campaigns. HDP's campaign song “Bejîn Na” was first banned in various cities, leading to a nation-wide ban. MHP's dissident Meral Akşener's rallies in various cities were banned. CHP MPs' panels in different universities were cancelled. The reported cases of censorship and bans invalidates Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım's statement "We have conducted a referendum where endless opportunities for propaganda were provided in a truly democratic manner".
Those who declared their "No" vote in the period leading to the referendum did not only face the threat of an assault but also the risk of losing their jobs. In this category we included cases of economic pressure against the political dissidents. Some employees lost their jobs because of their social media shares, it was reported that employees working at or in affiliation with public institutions were deprived of their economic rights or were forced to participate in "Yes" campaigns faced with the threat of losing their jobs. The widely known incident in this category was the termination of popular anchorman İrfan Değirmenci's employment and the media moghul Aydın Doğan standing by his decision to fire Değirmenci. This example is a striking demonstration of the current situation of press freedom in Turkey as well. While this report was being written, it was reported that İrfan Değirmenci's home got fired on several times.
Prevention of access to ballot boxes or of being a polling clerk
In this category we listed the cases of unjustified dismissals of polling clerks and of restrictions of access to the ballot boxes. Among the examples are the ballot boxes carried across districts, cancellation of the duties of HDP and CHP polling clerks and as is the case in every election the lack of necessary infrastructure for the disabled access to the ballot boxes.
After the referendum
We only included data compiled up to April 18 in our maps, yet news of violations kept coming and upon Supreme Election Board's sudden decision that is against the law, people started organizing protests and parties made declarations. There were reported cases of law enforcers waiting beside the ballot boxes during the voting and of physical assaults against the polling clerks. In this section, we tried to summarize the post-referendum situation in Turkey.
Does Election Board’s Decision To Consider Unsealed Ballots Valid Comply With Law?
In the Referendum on the Constitutional Amendment Draft, the Supreme Election Board (YSK) has suspended the requirement that the envelopes and the ballot papers be sealed before the start of the voting process.
But what does the applicable law require?
The criteria to meet in an election process are regulated in the "The Law on Basic Provisions on Elections and Electoral Registers".
According to Article 98 of the The Law on Basic Provisions on Elections and Electoral Registers, unsealed ballot papers are invalid.
The applicable article which clearly demonstrates that YSK's decision contradicts with the law requires that:
"Any envelopes which are different in color or shape than the ones given by the poll board, any envelopes which do not carry the seal of the Election Board and the poll board […] or carry any seal different from these as well as signature, writing, fingerprint are considered invalid".
bianet.org/english – April 17, 2017
Referendum results: 51.4 percent Yes, 48.6 percent No
The Constitutional amendment referendum, which puts an end to the Parliamentary system in Turkey, has passed the elections with 51.4 percent “Yes” votes against 48.6 percent “No.” The referendum had a participation of 83.3 percent; according to the initial data. The difference between “Yes” and “No” votes have been 1 million and 250 thousand votes. 1 million votes have been invalid.
Many allegations of violation have been brought up during the referendum, which was held under the pressure of the State of Emergency and after all government resources being used for ‘Yes’ campaigns. In the meantime, the Higher Electoral Council (YSK) has given a scandalous decision during the counting; to count unsealed ballots and envelopes as well. Thus, YSK has neglected its own legislation and the Electoral Law. Republican People’s Party (CHP) and People’s Democratic Party (HDP) have announced that they will object to the results.
Speaking after the results have cleared, President Erdoğan has brought up the debates on “capital punishment” into agenda once again. “If it passes the Parliament, I will approve it,” Erdoğan said; further signaling for a future referendum on death penalty.
dusun-think.net – April 17, 2017
CHP and HDP's objection to the referendum results: Almost 2,5 million invalid ballots were validated!
CHP Vice Chair Erdal Aksünger stated "Almost 2.5 million votes that should have been invalid were accepted as valid" and announced the party's objection to the results.
HDP Spokesperson Osman Baydemir stated their objection to the results and said "The referendum results are not official until it has resulted."
T24 – April 16, 2017
OSCE: “Referendum was held in unfair conditions"
Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) has announced the first observations of the referendum on the Constitutional amendment in Turkey. Pointing out that the referendum was held under the State of Emergency and in unfair conditions, OSCE monitoring board has commented on the application of the Higher Electoral Board (YSK) revoking the obligation of official stamps on ballot envelopes. “An important security measure has been revoked,” stated the board.
dusun-think.net- April 18, 2017
Residents of Kadıköy on streets: "This election is illegitimate. No, we won."
The unofficial referendum results announced by Anadolu Agency after Supreme Election Board's decision to validate the unstamped ballots was protested in Kadıköy.
bianet.org – April 17, 2017
Head of Turkey’s elections board: ‘We don’t and can’t know the number of unstamped ballots’
While claims about the total number of unstamped materials being as high as over 2 million have spread since last night, Güven said ‘the number is unknown and cannot be known,’ adding if complaints are filed about it, ‘it may be checked.’
Birgün Daily- April 18, 2017
Houses of no voters in Turkey raided by police; 38 people in custody
As objections and protests against the scandalous and unlawful decision of Turkey’s Supreme Board of Elections (YSK) grow, houses of 38 people in İstanbul were raided forllowing their participation in a demonstration in Beşiktaş district of İstanbul earlier this week.
The 38 ‘no’ voters, among whom is also provincial head of Turkey’s Freedom and Solidarity Party (ÖDP), Mesut Geçgel, have been taken into custody with the accusations of ‘provoking the public.’
Birgün Daily – April 19, 2017
sendika.org Editor Demirhan Released
sendika.org editor Ali Erdin Demirhan's testimony was taken in the police department in the evening of April 24 and Demirhan was released the next day after five days in detention.
Demirhan was taken into custody on charges of "organizing protests on social media accounts in attempt to make the referendum results look illegitimate", "inciting people to hatred and hostility" as well as "insulting an official in performing her/his duty".
References: Reports and Media Platforms