Constitutional changes that would greatly expand the powers of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have been warmly welcomed by Turkish voters who appear to have approved the changes. However, the country's main opposition party revealed that it would call for a recount in up to 60 percent of the votes.
A total of 51.3 percent of the 98 percent of ballots counted stood in favor of allowing 18 constitutional changes as reported by the State-run Anadolu news agency. The constitutional changes would replace Turkey's parliamentary system of government with a presidential one. The move could see Erdogan remain in office until at least 2029.
A report made by Erdogan on Sunday revealed that the yes side was ahead by approximately 1.3 million votes. Erdogan was very impressed as he struck a conciliatory tone, thanking all voters regardless of how they cast their ballots and calling the referendum.
The opinion polls indicated that the yes vote would have a narrow lead before Sunday's ballot. However, the polls also showed that the country's three largest cities looked to vote against the move. Turkey underwent a bitter division as a result of the referendum since it will affect the country's strained relations with the European Union.
Turkey’s current constitution was written by generals following a military coup in 1980. The main agenda behind the move was to confront security and political challenges in Turkey and avoid breakable coalition governments of the past. As a result, Erdogan has insisted the changes are needed to amend the current constitution.
However, critics indicate that the move grants sweeping powers to Erdogan following a failed coup last July. Shortly before the polls closed, the High Electoral Board's website had a statement indicating that the board would count ballots that had not been stamped by officials as valid unless they could be proved fraudulent.
The announcement was heavily criticized by the main opposition People's Republican Party, which said the decision caused a serious legitimacy problem in the referendum. The deputy chairman of the party, Erdal Aksunger, revealed that illegal acts had been carried out in favour of the government in the referendum.
The leader of the Nationalist Action Party, Devlet Bahceli, declared victory for the yes campaign, adding that Turkish voters had made a decision out of their free will, adding that the result was a very important success.
Erdogan casted his vote in a school near his home in Istanbul where he said that God willing he believed that people would decide to open the path to much more rapid development, adding that he believed in Turks democratic common sense.
Reports indicate that around 55 million people were eligible to vote in the referendum. The proposals indicate that the office of prime minister ought to be abolished. The move is meant to allow the president to draft the budget, declare a state of emergency and issue decrees overseeing ministries without parliamentary approval.