After the constitutional referendum in Turkey on Sunday 16 April 2017, Stefan Schennach (SOC) resumes that the process was “neither fair nor free”. Schennach was part of the ad hoc committee of PACE to observe the referendum. Together with Andrej Hunko (UEL) Schennach was mandated to visit polling stations in Diyarbakir and Mardin, cities in Southern Anatolia close to the border to Syria. Both delegates describe the events they experienced during their mission as worrisome.
According to their report, Schennach and Hunko were denied access to polling stations twice: In the afternoon, when the elections were still ongoing, they were kept outside a polling station for more than two hours. In the evening in Mardin, when polls were about to close and the counting of the votes began, they were again denied to enter the station and had to wait outside for more than 20 minutes. The same seems to have happened to observers from ODIHR whose access to the polling stations was also either limited or denied.
Besides these incidents, Schennach noticed a very high presence of police forces, also in front of polling stations. Furthermore, he adds that it should be kept in mind that thousands of people were not able to vote, either because of being imprisoned or because of having been internally displaced.
The statement of the ad hoc committee of PACE resonates with Schennach´s opinion: Though the technical aspects of the process were well administered, the legal framework did not live up to Council of Europe standards.