Opposition supporters took to the streets of Istanbul to bang pots and pans – a traditional form of protest – in a series of noisy demonstrations.
Meanwhile, flag-waving supporters of President Erdogan celebrated as their leader praised them for their “historic decision” that could keep him in office until 2029.
Image source Wikipedia
With 99.97% of ballots counted, the Yes campaign had won 51.41% of the votes cast, while No had taken 48.59%. Turnout was said to be as high as 85%.
Separately, three people were shot dead near a polling station in the south-eastern province of Diyarbakir, reportedly during a dispute over how they were voting.
Responding to the referendum’s result, the European Commission issued a statement urging President Erdogan to respect the closeness of the vote and to “seek the broadest possible national consensus” when considering the far-reaching implications of the constitutional amendments.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters at his official Istanbul residence, the Huber Palace: “Today… Turkey has taken a historic decision.
“With the people, we have realized the most important reform in our history.”
He called on everyone to respect the outcome of the vote.
President Erdogan also said Turkey could hold a referendum on bringing back the death penalty – a move that would end the country’s EU negotiations.
Turkey Referendum Result: Recep Tayyip Erdogan Wins Vote to Expand His Powers
Turkish voters are going to polls in a landmark referendum that will determine whether President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will be granted sweeping new powers.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan is seeking to replace Turkey’s parliamentary system with an executive presidency.
His supporters say the move would streamline and modernize Turkey, but opponents fear it could lead to greater authoritarianism.
A “yes” vote could also see Recep Tayyip Erdogan remain in office until 2029.
On April 15, Turkish politicians made their final appeals to voters preparing to cast their ballots on one of the most sweeping programs of constitutional change since Turkey became a republic almost a century ago.
Some 55 million people are eligible to vote across 167,000 polling stations, with the results expected to be announced late in the evening.
If the referendum vote falls in Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s favor, it would give him vastly enhanced powers to appoint cabinet ministers, issue decrees, choose senior judges and dissolve parliament.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the changes were needed to address the security challenges faced by Turkey, and to avoid the fragile coalition governments of the past.
Image source Wikipedia
Speaking at one of his final rallies in Istanbul’s Tuzla district, Recep Tayyip Erdogan told supporters that the new constitution would “bring stability and trust that is needed for our country to develop and grow”.
“Turkey can leap into the future,” he said.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan assumed the presidency, a largely ceremonial position, in 2014 after more than a decade as prime minister.
The referendum on constitutional change would abolish the post of prime minister altogether, allowing the president to bring all state bureaucracy under his control.
The president says the new system will resemble those in France and the US and will bring calm in a time of turmoil marked by a Kurdish insurgency, Islamist militancy and conflict in neighboring Syria that has led to a huge refugee influx.
The campaign, which has polarized Turkey, takes place under a state of emergency which was imposed following a failed coup last July. A government crackdown since then has seen tens of thousands of people arrested.
Opponents and critics of the proposed changes fear the move would make the president’s position too powerful, arguing that it would amount to one-man rule, without the checks and balances of other presidential systems.
They say his ability to retain ties to a political party – Recep Tayyip Erdogan could resume leadership of the AK Party (AKP) he co-founded – would end any chance of impartiality.
Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), told a rally in Ankara that a “yes” vote would endanger the country.
“We will put 80 million people on to a bus… we don’t know where it is headed. We are putting 80 million on a bus with no brakes,” he said.
The referendum has a simple “yes” or “no” choice on whether to endorse parliament’s approval of a new draft constitution.
The draft states that the next presidential and parliamentary elections will be held on November 3, 2019, and the president would have a five-year tenure, for a maximum of two terms.
On March 13, the Dutch foreign ministry issued a new travel warning, urging its citizens in Turkey to take care and noting the new “diplomatic tensions”.
The warning to “avoid gatherings and crowded places” came as Turkey’s foreign ministry lodged a formal protest with the Dutch envoy.
Meanwhile, Dutch deputy PM Lodewijk Asscher said that “to be called Nazis by a regime which is walking backwards in regards to human rights is just disgusting”.
The row spilled over into the campaign for March 15 general election in the Netherlands, with PM Mark Rutte defending in a live TV debate his decision to stop Turkish ministers addressing Dutch Turks.
His opponent, Geert Wilders of the far-right, anti-Islam Freedom Party, said the real problem was that Turks waving Turkish flags on a Dutch street had shown where their loyalties lay.
European Union leaders called for calm.
The proposed rallies aimed to encourage a large number of Turks living in Europe to vote Yes in a referendum on April 16 on expanding the president’s powers. The plans were criticized by senior EU officials on March 13.
In Germany, for example, there are more than three million people of Turkish origin, of whom an estimated 1.4 million are eligible to vote in Turkish elections. In effect, the diaspora is Turkey’s fourth-largest electoral district.
Planned rallies in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands were blocked after officials cited security concerns or said the rallies could stoke tensions.
A gathering in France went ahead, however, after officials said it did not pose a threat.
Two Turkish ministers were barred from addressing rallies in Rotterdam, with one of them escorted to the German border.
Police used dogs and water cannon against protesters waving Turkish flags in Rotterdam.
“I have said that I had thought that Nazism was over, but I was wrong,” he said.
He later lashed out at the German chancellor.
“Mrs. Merkel, why are you hiding terrorists in your country? Why are you not doing anything?” he said, in comments quoted by AFP.
“Mrs. Merkel, you are supporting terrorists.”
Turkey has previously accused Germany of harboring Kurdish militants and suspects wanted over the failed coup attempt of July 15, 2016.
Turkey’s EU affairs minister, Omer Celik, said Ankara would retaliate against the Netherlands. He later suggested reconsidering part of a deal with the EU aimed at curbing an influx of migrants, namely Turkey’s efforts to prevent them crossing by land to Greece and Bulgaria.
On March 13, the Dutch charge d’affaires in Ankara was summoned for the third time in three days in protest against the treatment of the minister escorted to Germany and the treatment of protesters in Rotterdam.
Mark Rutte said President Erdogan’s comment that the Dutch were “Nazi remnants” was “unacceptable”, and demanded an apology.
Responding to Turkish calls for sanctions, he said the Netherlands would “never negotiate under threat”.
“This rejection is also valid for our allies. These comparisons are completely misguided… particularly in the Netherlands that endured so much agony through the National Socialists,” she said.
“That’s why the Netherlands can count on my complete support and solidarity in this.”
Danish PM Lars Lokke Rasmussen said he had postponed a meeting later this month with his Turkish counterpart Binali Yildirim because “with the current Turkish attacks on Holland the meeting cannot be seen separated from that”.
However, when Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya arrived, Dutch authorities refused to allow her entry to the consulate, sparking a stream of angry tweets.
Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya was then taken to the German border by police, Dutch PM Mark Rutte confirmed on March 12.
In a Facebook post, Mark Rutte said attempts to find a “reasonable solution” to the countries’ differences had proved “impossible”, while dismissing Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya’s arrival in Rotterdam as “irresponsible”.
Many of the countries have cited security concerns as the official reason the rallies have been banned or moved.
Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said President Erdogan was not welcome to hold rallies as this could increase friction and hinder integration.
Dutch PM Mark Rutte said the Netherlands asked Turkey to desist as they feared “compromised public order and security”.
However, many European nations have also expressed deep disquiet about Turkey’s response to the July coup attempt and the country’s perceived slide towards authoritarianism under Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Germany in particular has been critical of the mass arrests and purges that followed – with nearly 100,000 civil servants removed from their posts.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan has lashed out at Germany and the Netherlands, denouncing the Dutch government as “Nazi remnants and fascists”, while accusing Germany of “Nazi practices”.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has condemned the Nazi jibe as “unacceptable”, while Mark Rutte dismissed it as a “crazy remark”.
However, Recep Tayyip Erdogan escalated the rhetoric after the Netherlands banned his foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu from entering the country by plane by threatening to block Dutch flights.
The Turkish president said: “Ban our foreign minister from flying however much you like, but from now on, let’s see how your flights will land in Turkey.”
Mevlut Cavusoglu also warned Turkey would impose heavy sanctions if his visit was blocked.
Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya ‘s arrival, by road, was seen as a further provocation by Turkey on the part of the Dutch – although Mark Rutte says his government remains “in favor” of speaking with President Erdogan and his colleagues to find a resolution.