France urges dialogue in Turkey, says referendum lays bare divisions

The "Yes" camp won with 51.41 per cent in Sunday's vote on giving Erdogan sweeping new powers, according to near-complete results, but angry opposition groups have cried foul and demanded a recount.

During Sunday night's count, the YSK announced that unverified votes - which had not been verified as genuine by election officials - would be allowed.

"This April 16 referendum is not an ordinary voting [process]", Erdogan told reporters said after casting his ballot.

It is "a major sign that our nation is protecting its future", Erdogan said in a post-referendum speech at Huber Palace in Istanbul.

President Erdogan has insisted the changes are needed to amend the current constitution, which was written by generals following a military coup in 1980, to confront security and political challenges in Turkey and avoid fragile coalition governments of the past.

Many of them are poor, religious conservatives from the Turkish interior who credit Erdogan's government with raising their standard of living.

Erdogan argued the changes would guarantee stability in Turkey - a message that resonates in a country that's suffered a spate of suicide bombings, as well as an attempted military coup last July that almost ousted the president from power.

Worldwide observers said the referendum campaign was conducted on an "unlevel playing field", while Erdogan's opponents fear the result will hand him one-man rule. They fear he's already showing authoritarian tendencies.

European monitors said the vote did not live up to global standards.

The pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party also claimed to have information that voter fraud was implicated in up to 4%.

Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) had been campaigning for a "no" vote, against the proposed changes. "In our democracy's history, a new page has opened", said Yildirim, whose job will disappear under the constitutional changes.

Erdogan again warned Brussels the he would sign any bill agreed by parliament to reinstate capital punishment, a move that would automatically end Turkey's European Union bid.

The constitutional package voted on the day has 18 articles, the most controversial one being the switch to an executive presidency from the parliamentary system put in place ever since the Republic of Turkey was founded in 1923.

Erdogan said that unofficial results of the plebiscite showed that around 25 million people said "yes" to the constitutional amendments, beating the "no" vote by 1.3 million.

The changes would replace Turkey's parliamentary system of government with a presidential one and could see Mr Erdogan remain in office until at least 2029.

  • Leroy Wright