Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Turkish referendum critics: ‘talk to the hand’

Turkish president criticises West’s ‘crusader mentality’ after criticism of vote on constitutional reform handing him sweeping new powers 

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has denounced European criticism of the country’s controversial referendum on constitutional reform which has granted him extensive new executive powers.

Addressing a crowd of supporters from the steps of his palace in Ankara on Monday after most ballots from the weekend’s voting showed a narrow 51.3 per cent victory for the ‘yes’ campaign, Mr Erdogan dismissed EU voting monitors who found the referendum was not a “genuinely democratic process.” 

“The crusader mentality in the West and its servants at home have attacked us,” he said. “We neither see, hear, nor acknowledge the political reports you'll prepare. 

“We'll continue on our path. Talk to the hand. This country has carried out the most democratic elections, not seen anywhere in the West.”

Earlier on Monday, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) had said that circumstances such as a “lack of equal opportunities, one-sided media coverage, and limitations on fundamental freedoms” had created an “unlevel playing field” in the campaigning and voting process. 

“In general, the referendum did not live up to Council of Europe standards. The legal framework was inadequate for the holding of a genuinely democratic process,” Cezar Florin Preda, head of the delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, said in a statement. 

Turkey's president Recep Erdogan wins referendum to greatly expand powers

Turkey’s foreign ministry also labelled the comments “prejudiced” and “unacceptable”.

Turkish-European relations have become increasingly strained amid concerns over Mr Erdogan’s human rights record and diplomatic spats over campaigning rules for expatriate Turks living in Germany and the Netherlands ahead of the weekend’s vote. 

On Monday Mr Erdogan reiterated his position that in light of the narrow ‘yes’ victory Turkey could break off its decades-long bid to accede to the EU.

The changes to Turkey’s executive branches of government proposed under the referendum will effectively abolish the position of prime minister, and turn the president’s currently largely ceremonial role into an active one.  

Mr Erdogan will have the power to appoint and fire ministers, name half the members of the country's highest judicial body, hold the leadership of a political party while in office, and possibly stay in power for another 12 years.

The president’s ruling AK party argues that Turkey’s current fragile economic and security situation needs strong leadership. Opponents, however, have already voiced fears that the president already holds too much power, and the ‘yes’ vote puts Turkey at risk of becoming an authoritarian state.

There has been a particular crackdown on members of the opposition, academics, journalists and rights activists since a failed military coup in July last year, after which the government declared a state of emergency.

Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus told media on Monday that the current decree is to be extended by another three months.