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Turkish Justice Minister warns against challenge to referendum expanding presidential powers

[JURIST] Turkey's Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ [official profile] said on Thursday that the Turkish Constitutional Court [official website] would reject any opposition challenge to a referendum that expanded President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's [official website] powers, and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] had no jurisdiction on the matter. The referendum was approved on Sunday after a 51 percent victory in favor of expanding President Tayyipp Erdogan's powers. The changes, which will not come into effect until 2019, would abolish [JURIST report] the position of prime minister and give the president powers formerly granted to Parliament. Many opposing [Reuter's report] the referendum called for a recount because election authorities made a last minute decision to allow unstamped ballots to be counted. The Republican People's party (CHP) is the main opposition to the passage of the referendum. The CHP stated on Wednesday that it wanted to appeal to the Constitutional Court or the ECHR.

Since the failed coup in Turkey in July, where Turkish military forces tried to overthrow the government, the Turkish government has taken several controversial steps to strengthen its power. Last month the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] published a report [JURIST report] describing a plethora of human rights violations committed by the Turkish government between July 2015 and December 2016. Also last month around 330 individuals were put on trial [JURIST report] for alleged involvement in the attempted coup. In November Turkey significantly restricted the activities of NGOs like human rights organizations and children's groups and arrested opposition party leaders [JURIST report] alleging they were connected to terror organizations. In October Human Rights Watch (HRW) [official website] warned [JURIST report] that the emergency decrees put in place after the failed coup, had resulted in serious human rights violations.

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