Turkey referendum: Erdogan camp set to win after most votes counted

(BBC, France 24) – Turks have voted to grant President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sweeping new powers in a referendum, partial official results indicate.

With about 96% of ballots counted, “Yes” was on 51.6% and “No” on about 48.4%.

Erdogan supporters say replacing the parliamentary system with an executive presidency would modernise the country.

Opponents have attacked a decision to accept unstamped ballot papers as valid unless proven otherwise.

A “Yes” vote could also see Mr Erdogan remain in office until 2029.

About 55 million people were eligible to vote across 167,000 polling stations, and turnout is said to have been high.

How significant are the changes?

They would represent the most sweeping programme of constitutional changes since Turkey became a republic almost a century ago.

Mr Erdogan would be given vastly enhanced powers to appoint cabinet ministers, issue decrees, choose senior judges and dissolve parliament.

The new system would scrap the role of prime minister and concentrate power in the hands of the president, placing all state bureaucracy under his control.er since he was voted prime minister in 2003.

A lopsided campaign

Erdogan’s supporters say a strong president is needed to handle the country’s myriad challenges, including terror threats from jihadist and leftist groups, the fallout from the Syrian civil war — which has seen around 4 million refugees flee to Turkey — and lowered economic growth.

Critics however argue that the new constitution will condemn Turkey to the elected dictatorship of Erdogan, an Islamist politician who has been in power since he was voted prime minister in 2003.

In the lead-up to Sunday’s vote, campaigning was very lopsided, with critics noting that the government used state finances and media to aid the “Yes” message while intimidating the “No” camp.

Over the past few weeks, giant posters for an “Evet” – or Yes – vote have dominated the skyline in major Turkish cities, while supporters of a “Hayir” – or No – vote complain of obstruction and intimidation from the opposite camp.

The arrests of senior leaders of the pro-Kurdish opposition HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party) also severely curtailed the opposition’s ability to campaign for a “No” vote in the restive, majority Kurdish southeast.

While HDP co-leader Selahattin Demirtas is in jail, his wife, Basak, cast her vote in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, the de-facto capital of Turkey’s oppressed Kurdish minority. “I hope that the result of this referendum will help our people move on the path of peace, democracy and freedom,” she said.

Voting was marred by shooting between two groups in the garden of a school in the Yabanardi village in Diyarbakir province.

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