Saturday 19 August 2017

Everything you need to know as Turkey's President Erdogan wins referendum to expand his powers

By Georgia Humphreys

Opposition figures indicated they would challenge the result, which could see Erdogan hold a referendum on bringing back the death penalty.

Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has won a critical referendum that will grant sweeping powers to the presidency, calling it a “historic decision”.

Speaking to reporters in Istanbul, Erdogan said unofficial results showed the “yes” side had won by a margin of 1.3 million votes. The head of Turkey’s electoral board has since confirmed that the “yes” votes have won.

Here’s everything you need to know.

Why did Erdogan call this referendum?

The “yes” vote approves 18 constitutional changes that 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.

Erdogan says the presidential system will ensure the country no longer risks having weak government.

The reforms allow the president to appoint ministers, senior government officials and half the members of Turkey’s highest judicial body, as well as to issue decrees and declare states of emergency.

Although the result falls short of the sweeping victory Erdogan had sought – the “yes” vote had about 51.3% compared to 48.7% for the “no” vote – it will cement his hold on the country’s governance.

So, what could the result mean for Turkey exactly?

The result is expected to have a huge impact on Turkey’s long-term political future and its international relations.

Opponents fear the change will lead to autocratic one-man rule, ensuring Erdogan, who has been accused of repressing rights and freedoms, could govern until 2029 with few checks and balances.

When addressing crowds outside his Istanbul residence, Erdogan told supporters chanting for the death penalty to be reinstated that he would discuss the issue with other political leaders and may even seek a new referendum.

What has Erdogan said about the result?

The president struck a conciliatory tone while speaking to reporters in Istanbul at first, thanking all voters regardless of how they cast their ballots and describing the referendum as a “historic decision”.

“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,” Erdogan said.

But he later slammed critics whom he said “belittled” the result, telling them their efforts would be “in vain”.

What’s it been like in the run-up to the referendum?

The referendum campaign was divisive and heavily one-sided, with the “yes” side dominating the airwaves and billboards across the country.

Supporters of the “no” vote have complained of intimidation, including beatings, detentions and threats.

The ballots themselves did not include the referendum question, it was assumed to be understood. Voters used an official stamp to select between “yes” and “no”.

And the vote comes as Turkey has been buffeted by problems – Erdogan survived a coup attempt last July, which he has blamed on his former ally and current nemesis Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic cleric living in the United States. Gulen has denied knowledge of the coup attempt.

What are the opposition to Erdogan saying?

The main opposition People’s Democratic Party, or CHP, cast doubt on the results.

CHP vice chairman Erdal Aksunger said they would challenge 37% of the ballot boxes.

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

Chairman Kemal Kilicdaroglu also said the Supreme Electoral Board had “rendered the referendum polemical” on Sunday by making an unprecedented announcement that it would accept as valid ballots cast without official stamps.

He says the board “changed the rules in violation of the laws” and “cast a shadow on the results”.

What has the reaction to Erdogan’s win been like in Turkey so far?

Erdogan supporters gathered in Istanbul to celebrate, sending fireworks into the night sky.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s prime minister Binali Yildirim, whose position will be eliminated under the presidential system of government called for in the referendum, also welcomed the results and extended a hand to the opposition.

“We are all equal citizens of the Republic of Turkey,” he said. “Both the ones who said ‘no’ and the ones who said ‘yes’ are one and are equally valuable.

“There are no losers of this referendum. Turkey won, the beloved people won.”

Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has hailed his government’s narrow win in the referendum as the birth of a “new Turkey”.

And what about the reaction outside of Turkey so far?

The European Union’s senior officials have responded cautiously to the outcome of Turkey’s constitutional referendum and are calling on the administration to seek a broad consensus as changes to the country’s system of government are implemented.

EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn said in a joint statement late on Sunday that they “take note of the reported results” indicating the referendum expanding the presidency’s powers was approved.

They noted that they are awaiting a report from international election observers on the vote and alleged irregularities.

The three say the constitutional amendments and their enactment “will be assessed in light of Turkey’s obligations as a European Union candidate country and as a member of the Council of Europe”.

The EU leaders said: “In view of the close referendum result and the far-reaching implications of the constitutional amendments, we also call on the Turkish authorities to seek the broadest possible national consensus in their implementation.”

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