Turkey’s opposition leader launches court challenge as he marches to Istanbul

CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu holding a sign saying "justice" on his march towards Istanbul

Turkey’s main opposition leader launched a European court appeal on Tuesday over an April vote that granted President Tayyip Erdogan sweeping powers, stepping up his challenge to the government as he leads a 425 kilometre protest march.

Before starting the 20th day of his march, Republican People’s Party (CHP) head Kemal Kilicdaroglu signed an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights against the decision by Turkey’s YSK election board to accept unstamped ballots in the 16 April referendum.

“The YSK decision made the referendum illegitimate. We are applying to the European Court of Human Rights,” Kilicdaroglu told reporters in the city of Izmit, around 100 km east of central Istanbul.

Kilicdaroglu, 68, set out for Istanbul from the capital Ankara on 15 June after fellow CHP deputy Enis Berberoglu was jailed for 25 years for spying, becoming the first MP from the party to be imprisoned in a government crackdown following a failed coup in July 2016.

April’s referendum, held under a state of emergency, gave a narrow 51.4 percent approval for constitutional changes that sharply widened Erdogan’s presidential authority.

Opposition parties have said the poll was deeply flawed, while European election observers said the decision of the High Electoral Board (YSK) to allow unstamped ballot papers to be counted had removed a main safeguard against voting fraud.