Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has censured the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) for reporting that “No” campaigners in Turkey’s upcoming referendum on extending presidential powers have faced crackdown by Ankara.
According to Press TV, Erdogan in a strongly-worded speech at a rally in Konya, the capital city of the Turkish Province of Konya, on Friday said “Now the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe says if the result is ‘yes’, that means there are a lot of problems. Who are you? First of all, you should know your place. This is not your duty.”
Erdogan’s comments referred to a recent interim report published by the OSCE, which will monitor the April 16 referendum, on the campaign atmosphere in the Anatolian country between March 17 and April 7. The report concluded that “No” supporters had faced bans, police interventions, violent scuffles at their events and arrests in several cases.
It also alleged that Ankara’s senior officials, including Erdogan himself and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, equated “No” campaigners with the mid-July 2016 failed coup plotters or terrorist organizations, noting that the referendum would be conducted under an extended state of emergency imposed following the attempted putsch.
Sunday’s referendum is aimed at abolishing the office of the prime minister and giving more executive powers, including issuing decrees, declaring emergency rule, appointing ministers and state officials and dissolving the parliament, to the currently largely ceremonial position of president in Turkey. Critics say the vote would give the president dictatorial powers.
If approved, the new constitution would allow Erdogan to stand in two more election cycles, potentially governing until 2029.
“You don’t have such a mission. You cannot talk about what would happen if the outcome is ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’ You cannot give such a report,” added the Turkish leader, addressing the OSCE.
The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights conducted the limited referendum campaigning observation mission in Turkey at the invitation of the country’s authorities.
The report also said that the freedom of expression had been further restricted by the closure of numerous media outlets and the arrest of a large number of journalists in the wake of the failed coup. “The fact that a number of political leaders and activists remain behind bars has seriously curtailed some groups’ ability to campaign,” it added.