Referendum result gives Turkey's President Erdogan expanded powers

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Associated Press

With 97 per cent of the ballots counted in Turkey's historic referendum, those who back constitutional changes greatly expanding President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's powers had a narrow lead today.

Supporters of Justice and Development party (AK) wave Turkish flags and hold a poster of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan outside its offices in Istanbul, Sunday, April 16, 2017. Voting has ended in Turkey's historic referendum on whether to approve constitutional changes that would greatly expand the powers of Erdogan and the result will determine Turkey's long-term political future and will likely have lasting effects on its relations with the European Union and the world. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

Supporters of Justice and Development party (AK) wave Turkish flags and hold a poster of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan outside its offices in Istanbul.

Source: Associated Press

The results from today's vote are expected to have a huge effect on Turkey's long-term political future and on its relations with the European Union and the world.

Anadolu news agency said 51.4 per cent voted "yes" and backed the constitutional changes to replace Turkey's parliamentary system with a presidential vote, with 48.6 per cent voting "no" against them.

More than 55 million people in this country of about 80 million were registered to vote and more than 1.3 million Turkish voters cast their ballots abroad.

Officials said Erdogan was already thanking allies and supporters for the passage of the constitutional changes as the vote neared its end.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan prepares to vote inside a polling station in Istanbul, Turkey, on Sunday, April 16, 2017. Voters in Turkey were casting their ballots Sunday in a historic referendum to approve or reject a set of constitutional reforms that would greatly expand the president's powers. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan prepares to vote.

Source: Associated Press

Erdogan supporters were celebrating with fireworks in Istanbul as the president said he is "grateful" to the people who "reflected their will.'

However, the vice-chairman of Turkey's main opposition party said the party will contest 37 per cent of the votes counted.

Opposition criticism

The opposition criticised the decision of the country's elections board to accept as valid ballot papers that don't have its official stamp.

Republican People's Party deputy chairman Bulent Tezcan told reporters today that the decision leaves the results of the constitutional referendum "faced with a serious legitimacy problem."

Turkey's Supreme Election Board announced the unprecedented move after many voters casting their votes in the country's historic referendum complained that they were given ballot papers without the official stamp.

If the "yes" vote prevails, the 18 constitutional changes will replace Turkey's parliamentary system of government with a presidential one, abolishing the office of the prime minister and granting sweeping executive powers to the president.

Erdogan and his supporters say the "Turkish-style" presidential system would bring stability and prosperity in a country rattled by last year's coup attempt and a series of devastating attacks by the ISIS and Kurdish militants.

But opponents fear the changes will lead to autocratic one-man rule, ensuring that the 63-year-old Erdogan, who has been accused of repressing rights and freedoms, could govern until 2029 with few checks and balances.

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