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'Intimidation and unfair campaigning' put Turkey referendum 'below global standards'

'Intimidation and unfair campaigning' put Turkey referendum 'below global standards'”

The monitors - a partnership of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Council of Europe - said that the "yes" campaign dominated media coverage, that voters were not provided with adequate information, that opposition voices were muzzled and that the rules were changed at the last minute.

A delegation of worldwide observers has concluded that Sunday's referendum in Turkey "fell short of global standards".

"The referendum took place in a political environment in which fundamental freedoms essential to a genuinely democratic process were curtailed under the state of emergency, and the two sides did not have equal opportunities to make their case to the voters", said Tana de Zulueta of the worldwide referendum observation mission.

The mission of observers from the 47-member Council of Europe, the continent's leading human rights body, said the referendum was an uneven contest.

Presenting their preliminary findings at a news briefing in Ankara, Tana de Zulueta, head of the monitoring mission, described a litany of shortcomings.

Bulent Tezcan, deputy chairman of Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party, claimed the decision was made after it appeared the "no" votes were ahead of the "yes" votes, and that initial counting of the ballots happened in secret.

The winning margin fell short of the sweeping victory President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was hoping for - however it is expected to cement his hold on power and have a huge effect on the country's future.

The main opposition parties have said they would challenge the result, and worldwide observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe expressed concern about the conduct of the campaign.

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The race was marred by divisive rhetoric, with the government equating no voters with terrorist groups and the opposition accusing the ruling party of seeking to install a dictatorship.

The U.S. State Department said it had taken note of the European monitors' concerns and looked forward to a final report, urging the Turkish government to protect the rights and freedoms of all citizens, however they voted.

The failed coup led Erdogan to crack down on his opposition, arresting 47,155 government critics, academics, journalists, military officials and civil servants.

The European Commission has called on President Erdogan to respect the closeness of the result and the far-reaching implications of the constitutional amendments.

The office of the French President, Francois Hollande, warned that any referendum in Turkey on the reinstatement of the death penalty would constitute a break with European Union values and commitments.

"Tayyip Erdogan may have done more good than the other big players (of Turkish politics). but I think of Tayyip Erdogan as just the best of the worst".

The changes are due to come in after the next election, scheduled for 2019.



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