Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has declared victory in a controversial referendum on granting him additional powers, but the opposition said it would challenge the unconfirmed result.
Soon after polling stations in Turkey closed on Sunday, the state news agency Anadolu Agency, citing 99.9 per cent of counted ballots, announced that 51.3 per cent of voters had backed a constitutional amendment granting additional powers to President Erdogan.
According to Anadolu, the turnout was 85.6 per cent. It said 48.7 per cent of voters had voted against the proposal.
A majority of voters in most of the bigger cities, such as Istanbul, Ankara, Adana, Antalya, Izmir and the mostly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir, voted against the proposed changes.
Official results from the Supreme Election Council, the YSK, were expected to come on Monday morning.
“We have won. There is no discussion that victory is ours. More than 25 million people voted in favour of the change. This is the greatest reform of our nation,” Erdogan said in a televised statement from the Presidential Palace in Istanbul.
However, the opposition bloc alleged election fraud and said it was certain that 52 per cent of Turks had voted “no” in the referendum.
Opposition leaders also claimed the Anadolu Agency had manipulated the results and that the Election Commission, which they said was controlled by Erdogan, assisted in this.
“These results are questionable, we will not accept them,” Kemal Kilicdaroglu, head of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, CHP, said after the first results.
“The results lack legitimacy because of the YSK’s policies and because of several serious irregularities,” he added.
Opposition officials and experts said one irregularity was a controversial decision – made on the referendum day – by the YSK to accept unsealed ballots.
According to many experts and the opposition, this was violation of the constitution.
Besides this, more than a million votes were cancelled, Anadolu Agency previously reported.
CHP Vice-President Erdal Aksunger told the media that they would officially challenge the results.
“Erdogan and his team are manipulating the results and the YSK is part of this crime. A recount is necessary,” he said. “They will lose the referendum and the people will win,” he added.
Unabashed, Erdogan dismissed all queries about the result, and said he would now proceed with his priority – restoring the death penalty in Turkey.
“I will discuss with the government about reintroducing the death penalty as my first task after the referendum,” he noted.
The new presidential political system, which includes abolishing the post of Prime Minister, will be applied as of 2019.
It remains unclear how the opposition can challenge the referendum results and what the outcome of such a challenge would be.
Since a failed coup attempt last summer, hundreds of thousands of people have been arrested, investigated, suspended or fired from their jobs, while numerous institutions including media and non-governmental organisations have been closed down.
If Erdogan escalates his oppression of political opponents in Turkey, it will further undermine Turkey’s relations with the EU, the US and NATO, experts say.
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