Turkey's Erdogan claims referendum win; critics call fraud

Frederick Owens
April 17, 2017

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.

"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 kilometres", Mr Erdogan said. Erdoğan said the results heralded a "new era" in Turkey, with the harmonization of laws due to be completed by November 2019, calling on the country's "allies and friends" to acknowledge and respect the will of the Turkish voters.

With 98.2 percent of the ballot boxes opened, 51.31 percent of the votes were for "Yes", backing the referendum, the state-run Anadolu agency reported.

Legislative elections would take place once every five years - instead of four - and on the same day as the presidential poll.

The world is looking at the referendum, as it will shape the country's strained relations with the European Union.

The constitutional changes have in discussion since Erdogan came to power in August 2014.

But with each election win, Erdogan grew more powerful, and, his critics say, more authoritarian.

However, the opposition parties have declined the mandate, saying they will challenge the outcome.

Erdogan and the AK Party have enjoyed a disproportionate share of media coverage in the buildup to the vote, overshadowing the secular main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP).

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Erdal Aksunger, deputy chairman of the party, claimed "illegal acts" had been carried out in favour of the government in the referendum.

"Our data indicates a manipulation in the range of 3 to 4 percent", the party said on its Twitter account.

Residents in neighbourhoods in Istanbul banged pots and pans from their windows in protest at the result.

"There are no losers of this referendum".

Turkey's prime minister has declared a victory based on unofficial results for backers of a referendum to greatly expand the powers of the country's president.

The vote came as Turkey has been buffeted by problems.

Still, a widespread government crackdown has targeted followers of Gulen and other government opponents, branding them terrorists and a state of emergency has been imposed.

The crackdown saw roughly 100,000 people lose their jobs, including judges, lawyers, teachers, journalists, military officers and police.

The government says Turkey, faced with conflict to the south in Syria and Iraq, and a security threat from Islamic State and PKK militants, needs strong leadership to combat terrorism.

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