(AhlulBayt News Agency) - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed victory in referendum on a new constitution that will hand him extra powers.
His victory is narrow as it is well below the 55 per cent mandate he predicted for the Yes camp. Opposition parties demanded recounts as results showed Erdogan had attained just 51.20 per cent after 99.99 per cent of ballots had been counted. Turkey's two main opposition, CHP and HDP, parties have challenged referendum result and had expressed concern over disqualified and unstamped ballots, maintaining that there has been a manipulation of the votes.
Turkey's Supreme Election Board said on Sunday that it had made an “unprecedented” decision to deem valid and count the ballots that didn’t bear the board's official seal. The move was explained by the fact that many voters complained that they were handed ballots without the official stamp in the referendum.
In order for the ballot to be considered invalid it has to be proven that it was cast fraudulently, the board added.
Meanwhile, Erdogan had called allied political leaders to congratulate them over the Yes win, with the words: “May this result be fortunate for our nation.” Erdogan also told the prime minister and the leader of nationalist party that the results were “clear”.
Results in major cities
In Istanbul, the nation’s economic capita, there was a resounding No despite the fact that it was the city where Erdogan first built his political base as mayor. The results in Istanbul are significant since it was the first time he had lost an election in the city since 2002. In the capital Ankara and Izmir, the third most populous city - the No camp emerged victorious, albeit narrowly.
Less than 33 percent supported the expansion of Erdogan’s powers in the mainly Kurdish province of Diyarbakır, with the "no" vote standing at 67 percent.
The Anadolu agency released unofficial results of the vote in Germany, where around 4 million Turkish citizens reside. Nearly 63 percent of German-Turks apparently voted ‘Yes’ in the referendum, which led to a rift in relations between Ankara and Europe.
Erdogan blasted the EU as “Nazi” and “fascist” after Germany, the Netherlands, and Austria banned rallies organized by Turkey to promote the plebiscite or in some cases prevented Turkish ministers from appearing at the events.
Turks living abroad cast their ballots on April 9, but their results will be released on Sunday along with those of the voters inside Turkey.
Erdogan can remain in power till 2029
The vote would replace Turkey's parliamentary democracy with an executive presidency and could see Erdogan stay in power until at least 2029. The vote would allow him to re-take control of the ruling Justice and Development party (AKP) that he helped to found. Erdogan spent 11 years as Turkey's Prime Minister - and head of the AKP - before becoming the country's first directly-elected president in August 2014 - a supposedly ceremonial role. The new powers would also allow Erdogan to issue decrees, declare emergency rule, appoint ministers and state officials as well as dissolve the parliament while the prime minister’s position would be abolished.
Opposition parties have expressed deep concerns over concentration of power in the office of the Presidency arguing it will cause the country to lurch further towards authoritarianism and one-man rule.
Polls closed at 4:00pm (13:00 GMT) in the east of the country, and 5:00pm elsewhere. The referendum, in which 55 million people eligible to vote, saw a high turnout of 86 percent.
Erdogan claims that the changes to the constitution are crucial at the moment for him to restore order in the country after the failed coup attempt mid last year, which Turkey blames on Fethullah Gulen a prominent religious figure, who is exiled in the US. Erdogan has launched a merciless crackdown under which more than 100,000 people have been detained, dismissed from their jobs.