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Fears of foul play hang over Turkish referendum

In the final stretch before Turkey’s critical referendum, “no” voters are concerned about government meddling and electoral fraud in what is expected to be a nail-biting vote on the country’s future.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters during a rally for the upcoming referendum in the Kurdish-dominated southeastern city of Diyarbakir, Turkey, April 1, 2017. REUTERS/Murad Sezer - RTX33N12
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DIYARBAKIR, Turkey — With pollsters predicting a close race in Turkey’s referendum on April 16, fears of electoral fraud and government meddling are more relevant than ever, fueled by the extraordinary powers the government wields under the state of emergency. The run-up to the plebiscite, which will seal the fate of constitutional changes designed to install an omnipotent presidency, is seen as writing on the wall as “no” campaigners — nationalists, social democrats and Kurds alike — face daily obstructions and bullying, including physical assaults.

While the entire “no” camp is apprehensive, the situation in the southeast — where the Kurdish vote will be of critical importance — is particularly sensitive. The region’s cities — the scene of a devastating crackdown on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) last year — have seen thousands of people displaced, while hundreds of Kurdish politicians, including party leaders, lawmakers and mayors have landed in jail. Badly crippled, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the main Kurdish political force, is trying to soldier on with its “no” campaign against its main rival, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which also enjoys a strong base among the Kurds.

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