Monday, April 17, 2017

Erdoğan wins narrow victory in referendum for sweeping powers

 The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has achieved a narrow victory in a historic referendum on a package of constitutional amendments that will grant him sweeping new powers.
Sadi Güven, the head of Turkey’s high electoral board (YSK), confirmed the passage of the referendum on Sunday night, based on unofficial results.
The yes campaign won 1.25m more votes than the no campaign, with only about 600,000 votes still to be counted, Güven told reporters in Ankara, meaning the expanded presidential powers had been approved.
However, disparities persisted into Sunday evening, with the opposition saying not all ballots had been counted and they would contest a third of the votes that had been cast.
Güven said the YSK had decided to consider unstamped ballots as valid unless they were proved to be fraudulent, after a high number of complaints – including one from the ruling Justice and Development party (AKP) – that its officials had failed to stamp some ballot papers.
The no campaign said the YSK’s last-minute decision raised questions about the validity of the vote. But Güven said the decision was taken before results were entered into the system and that members of the AKP and the main opposition were present at almost all polling stations and signed off on reports. He said official results were expected in 11-12 days.
The result of the referendum sets the stage for a transformation of the upper echelons of the state and changing the country from a parliamentary democracy to a presidential republic, arguably the most important development in the country’s history since it was founded on the ashes of the Ottoman Republic. The result gives the president to be elected in 2019 new powers to appoint vice-presidents, ministers, high-level officials, and senior judges. It will also allow the president to dissolve parliament, issue executive decrees, and impose states of emergency.
Erdoğan said he would immediately discuss reinstating the death penalty in talks with the prime minister and the nationalist opposition leader, Devlet Bahçeli. The president said he would take the issue to referendum if necessary.
 Results carried by the state-run Anadolu news agency showed the yes vote had about 51.3% compared with 48.7% for the no vote, with nearly 99% of the vote counted. Turnout exceeded 80%.
The country’s three largest cities – Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir – voted against the changes, and so did the vast majority of Kurdish voters and many of the coastal cities, indicating a general decline in the ruling party’s support.
The vote caps two months of campaigning that has further polarised a divided country still reeling from a coup attempt in which 265 people were killed and hundreds injured, frequent terror attacks and the impact of the ongoing civil war in neighbouring Syria.
The campaign refocused attention on government abuses in the aftermath of the coup, including a purge that has gone far beyond those who backed the putsch to target those who oppose the president’s policies. Tens of thousands of academics, judges and members of the security forces have been dismissed and top opposition politicians and dozens of journalists have been arrested.
Turkey has drifted away from its western allies, from a candidate for European Union membership in Erdoğan’s early years to a state of open hostility with the bloc now. EU leaders accuse the Turkish president of clamping down on freedoms, while he calls them “Nazi remnants” and “fascists” who have been morally compromised by their treatment of Turkey and Syrian refugees.

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