Turkey's Erdogan claims referendum win

2017-04-16 22:03
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan waves to supporters in Istanbul after declaring victory in the historic referendum. (Lefteris Pitarakis, AP)

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan waves to supporters in Istanbul after declaring victory in the historic referendum. (Lefteris Pitarakis, AP)

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Istanbul - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared victory in Sunday's referendum that will grant sweeping powers to the presidency, hailing the result as a "historic decision".

Speaking to reporters in Istanbul, Erdogan said unofficial results showed the "yes" side had won by a margin of 1.3 million votes.

The president struck a conciliatory tone, thanking all voters regardless of how they cast their ballots and describing the referendum as a "historic decision.

"April 16 is the victory of all who said yes or no, of the whole 80 million, of the whole of Turkey of 780 000-square kilometers," Erdogan said.

Autocratic tendencies

Returns carried by the state-run Anadolu news agency showed that with nearly 99% of the vote counted, the "yes" vote had about 51.3% compared to 48.7% for the "no" vote.

Turkey's main opposition party vowed to challenge the results reported by Anadolu agency, saying they were skewed.

Erdogan has long sought to broaden his powers, but a previous attempt failed after the governing party that he co-founded fell short of enough votes to pass the reforms without holding a referendum.

Opponents argued the plan concentrate too much power in the hands of a man they allege has shown increasingly autocratic tendencies.

The outcome is expected to have a huge effect on Turkey's long-term political future and its international relations. Although the result, if officially confirmed, would fall short of the sweeping victory Erdogan had sought, but nevertheless cements his hold on the country's governance.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, whose position will be eliminated under the presidential system of government called for in the referendum, also welcomed the results and extended a hand to the opposition.

"We are all equal citizens of the Republic of Turkey," he said. "Both the ones who said 'no' and the ones who said 'yes' are one and are equally valuable."

Erdogan supporters gathered outside the AK Party headquarters in Istanbul to celebrate, sending fireworks into the night sky.

Legitimacy problem

But the main opposition People's Democratic Party, or CHP, cast doubt on the results. CHP vice chair Erdal Aksunger said they would challenge 37% of the ballot boxes.

"Our data indicates a manipulation in the range of 3 - 4%" the party said on its Twitter account.

The country's pro-Kurdish opposition party, which also opposed the constitutional changes, said it plans to object to two-thirds of the ballots.

An unprecedented decision by Turkey's Supreme Election board to accept as valid ballot papers that don't have the official stamp also drew the ire of the CHP, with the party's deputy chairperson, Bulent Tezcan, saying the decision had left the referendum "with a serious legitimacy problem."

The board made the announcement after many voters complained about being given ballot papers without the official stamp, saying ballots would be considered invalid only if proven to have been fraudulently cast.


Read more on:    recep tayyip erdogan  |  turkey  |  referendum

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