Changes in voting procedure against law: global observers

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Changes in voting procedure against law: global observers

Turkey's referendum campaign was conducted on an "unlevel playing field" and the vote count itself was marred by late procedural changes that removed key safeguards, worldwide observers said on Monday.

The referendum campaign was conducted on an "unlevel playing field" and the vote count itself was marred by the late procedural changes that removed key safeguards, global observers said.

He made the comments at news conference in Ankara.

Austria's Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said the outcome of Sunday's referendum went against European Union principles.

Though the observer mission said the voting proceeded in a largely orderly fashion on Sunday, it criticised a last-minute controversial decision by the country's election board to count unstamped ballots as being against the law and lifting an "important safeguard" against fraud.

Global election monitors have delivered a scathing verdict on the conduct of Turkey's controversial referendum to grant expansive new powers to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Ahead of the announcement from the observers, the deputy leader of Turkey's opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) called for the results to be annulled.

The proposed changes would grant the president powers to appoint ministers, senior government officials and half the members of Turkey's highest judicial body, as well as issue decrees and declare states of emergency.

Germany, host to some 4 million Turks, said it was up to Erdogan himself to heal the rifts that the vote had exposed.

Opposition parties criticized the decision of election authorities to allow ballots that did not bear an official stamp.

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.

He said: "There is only one way to end the discussions about the vote's legitimacy and to put the people at ease, and that is for the Supreme Electoral Board to cancel the vote".

Erdogan's victory was far tighter than expected, emerging only after several nail-biting hours late Sunday which saw the "no" result dramatically catch up in the later count.

Meanwhile, flag-waving supporters of Erdogan celebrated as their President praised them for their "historic decision" that could keep him in office until 2029. Later in Istanbul, he changed his tone.

Three of Turkey's biggest cities - Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir - all voted No to the constitutional changes.

If the opposition failed to support such a bill, he said another referendum could be held on reinstating the death penalty. Also, the change would lower the minimum age for lawmakers from 25 to 18, increase the number of seats in parliament from 550 to 600, close down military courts, and introduce same-day parliamentary and presidential elections every five years.

The result laid bare the deep divide between the urban middle classes who see their future as part of a European mainstream, and the pious rural poor who favour Erdogan's strong hand. "So I think it's been very clear that elections are not on the agenda".

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