With 51.3 percent of the vote, the “Yes” vote campaign has won Turkey’s historic April 16 referendum on a new political system giving enormous centralized power to the president. The campaign took place in a climate of unprecedented political repression. Ruling by emergency decree, the president and government controlled the media, dominated the public sphere, and ensured that critical journalists and leaders of the pro-Kurdish parliamentary opposition were jailed. The main opposition parties are contesting the results of the referendum on the grounds that Turkey’s Higher Election Board issued a controversial ruling on referendum day to accept ballot papers not bearing official stamps.
In the days ahead the president and government should end the state of emergency and commit to upholding the human rights of all in Turkey regardless of political outlook. Arbitrary detentions and prosecutions, unfair trials, the crackdown on media and the pro-Kurdish political opposition need to end. In his first victory speech to his supporters on Sunday night President Erdogan referred to plans to reintroduce the death penalty, a repeated theme throughout the referendum campaign. Human Rights Watch opposes capital punishment in all circumstances because of its irreversible, cruel, and inhumane nature. Its reintroduction would be another disastrous step away from human rights norms for Turkey.