Turkey's Erdogan Claims Referendum Win; Critics Call Fraud

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared victory Sunday evening in a crucial referendum that would hand his office broad new powers in what would amount to the most sweeping reform of the country's modern politics. Under the changes, President Erdogan could stay in power through 2029.

Mr Erdogan cast his vote in Uskudar on the Asian side of Istanbul, posing to cameras together with his wife Emine, his grandchildren, elder daughter Esra and son-in-law Berat Albayrak, the energy minister.

If officially confirmed, Sunday's outcome is expected to have a huge effect on Turkey's long-term political future and its worldwide relations. It said 48.7 per cent of voters had voted against the proposal. However, this referendum is a decision on a new administrative system, a change and a transformation in the Republic of Turkey. Members of the opposition, however, said the vote was marred by irregularities and vowed to challenge the result.

The decision was criticized by opposition parties as a power grab attempt by the president.

"We encourage Turkey to address the Council of Europe's concerns and recommendations, including with regards to the state of emergency", the Commission said.

Some 55 million people were eligible to vote on Sunday and results are expected to start coming in within hours.

But Turkish ministers and Erdogan have said they need to respond to popular demand for the restoration of capital punishment to deal with the ringleaders of the July 15 coup bid.

Referring to the decision to count ballots without validation stamps, party chairman Kemal Kilicdaroglu said: "You can not change the rules of the game in the middle of the game", adding that the board had "cast a shadow on the results".

The ballots themselves did not include the referendum question - it was assumed to be understood.

Sadi Guven, who heads the Supreme Electoral Board, defended the decision, telling reporters Monday that it was taken to ensure that voters who were by mistakenly given unstamped ballot papers would not be "victimized".

Campaigning for Turkey's crucial referendum on whether to expand presidential powers entered its final stretch Saturday, with supporters of both "yes" and "no" campaigns addressing flag-waving supporters in Turkey's two main cities of Istanbul and Ankara.

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.

"We are here early to say "no" for our country, for our children and grandchildren", said retired tax officer Murtaza Ali Turgut.

Erdogan narrowly won a historic referendum Sunday that will tighten his grip on power, but the knife-edge result left the country bitterly divided and the opposition crying foul. "Do we want a democratic parliamentary system or do we want a one-man regime?" It sets a limit of two five-year terms for the President.

  • Salvatore Jensen