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Turkey electoral board rejects request to annul referendum

April 19, 2017

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey’s electoral board on Wednesday rejected petitions by opposition parties to annul the outcome of the weekend’s referendum on expanding presidential powers because of voting irregularities. The decision led protesters in Istanbul to call for the resignation of board members while the main opposition party said it would take the decision to Turkey’s top court.

The High Electoral Board announced in a written statement its decision by a 10-1 vote to reject three requests by the opposition. Mehmet Hadimi Yakupoglu, the main opposition Republican People’s Party’s representative at the board, said they would take the decision to the constitutional court and then to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary. “We will demand the rights of the voters until the end,” he said.

Opposition parties have complained of a series of irregularities, particularly an electoral board decision to accept ballots without official stamps, as required by Turkish law. The board, however, published past rulings on the validity of unstamped ballots.

The Istanbul Bar Association on Wednesday filed a criminal complaint against electoral board head Sadi Guven for “wrongful conduct” and “altering the result of the election.” A prosecutor will now consider whether to press charges against Guven.

Before the electoral board’s announcement, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the opposition had the right to file objections, but warned that calling for street protests was unacceptable. He said that “the path to seek rights” should be limited to the courts.

“Calling people to the street is wrong and is outside the line of legitimacy,” Yildirim said, adding, “we expect the main opposition party’s leader to act more responsibly.” However, thousands continued to protest Sunday’s referendum, which has set into motion the transformation of Turkey’s system of government from a parliamentary to a presidential one that would give more power to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Some 2,000 protesters in Istanbul Wednesday evening demanded the resignation of the electoral board and chanted “Don’t be silent, shout out, ‘no’ to the presidency.” Earlier, 19 people were detained for allegedly using the results of a constitutional referendum as an “excuse” to organize “unauthorized demonstrations,” official Anadolu news agency reported.

Unofficial results show a narrow win for Erdogan’s “yes” campaign, which garnered 51.4 percent of the vote. International election monitors, including from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, noted a series of irregularities, and said the decision to accept as valid ballots without official stamps undermined safeguards against fraud and was contrary to Turkish law.

Germany also expressed concern. “The German government takes the report by the OSCE and the Council of Europe very seriously, and we expect Turkey to do so,” government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer told reporters in Berlin. “We will follow closely how Turkey behaves on this. From the German government’s point of view, Turkey must … clear up the questions that have been raised.”

Erdogan has dismissed the criticism from the observers, telling the monitors to “know your place.” “That the Turkish leadership didn’t like the criticism by the OSCE’s election observer mission isn’t a surprise to anyone,” German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said.

“What matters for us is not so much the first reaction from whomever in Turkey, directed more at domestic politics, but whether the responsible Turkish authorities really deal seriously with the criticism voiced publicly by the OSCE election observer mission, which was meant seriously and researched seriously.”

The U.S. response has been different, with President Donald Trump calling Erdogan shortly after the referendum to congratulate him on his win. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Erdogan and Trump would meet in person next month, before a NATO summit.

Geir Moulson in Berlin, Elena Becatoros in Istanbul and Mehmet Guzel in Ankara contributed to this report.

Turkey’s president Erdogan fulfills ambition, but at a cost

April 18, 2017

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has finally fulfilled his long-held ambition to expand his powers after Sunday’s referendum handed him the reins of his country’s governance. But success did not come without a cost.

His victory leaves the nation deeply divided and facing increasing tension with former allies abroad, while international monitors and opposition parties have reported numerous voting irregularities. An unofficial tally carried by the country’s state-run news agency gave Erdogan’s “yes” vote a narrow win, with 51.4 percent approving a series of constitutional changes converting Turkey’s political system from a parliamentary to a presidential one. Critics argue the reforms will hand extensive power to a man with an increasingly autocratic bent, leaving few checks and balances in place.

Opposition parties called for the vote to be annulled because of a series of irregularities, particularly an electoral board decision to accept ballots that did not bear official stamps, as required by Turkish law. Monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, who also listed numerous irregularities, said the move undermined safeguards against fraud.

The referendum campaign was heavily weighted in favor of the “yes” campaign, with Erdogan drawing on the full powers of the state and government to dominate the airwaves and billboards. The “no” campaign complained of intimidation, detentions and beatings.

In Istanbul, hundreds of “no” supporters demonstrated in the streets on Monday, chanting “thief, murderer, Erdogan” and banging pots and pans. “We are protesting today because the results announced by the government are not the real ones. Because actually the ‘no’ we voted won. But the government is announcing it as ‘yes’ has won,” Damla Atalay, a 35-year-old lawyer, said of the voting irregularities.

Erdogan was unfazed by the criticism as he spoke to flag-waving supporters in the Turkish capital, Ankara. “We have put up a fight against the powerful nations of the world,” he said as he arrived at the airport from Istanbul. “The crusader mentality attacked us abroad. … We did not succumb. As a nation, we stood strong.”

In a speech before a massive crowd at his sprawling presidential palace complex, Erdogan insisted Turkey’s referendum was “the most democratic election … ever seen in any Western country” and admonished the OSCE monitors to “know your place.”

The increasing polarization of Turkish society has long worried observers, who note the dangers of deepening societal divisions in a country with a history of political instability. The referendum was held with a state of emergency still in place, imposed after an attempted coup in July. About 100,000 people have been fired from their jobs in the crackdown that followed on supporters of a U.S.-based Islamic cleric and former Erdogan ally whom the president blamed for the attempted putsch. Tens of thousands have been arrested or imprisoned, including lawmakers, judges, journalists and businessmen.

The Council of Ministers decided Monday to extend the state of emergency, which grants greater powers of detention and arrest to security forces, for a further three months. It had been due to expire April 19. The decision was to be sent to parliament for approval.

“The way (Erdogan) has closed the door on the opposition, there is likely to be increased political unrest,” said Howard Eissenstat, associate professor of Middle East history at St. Lawrence University in upstate New York. “Forty-eight percent of the population is being told that their voices don’t matter.”

There is also the risk of increased international isolation, with Erdogan appealing to patriotic sentiments by casting himself as a champion of a proud Turkish nation that will not be dictated to by foreign powers in general, and the European Union in particular.

Turkey has been an EU candidate for decades, but its accession efforts have been all but moribund for several years. “They have made us wait at the gates of the European Union for 54 years,” Erdogan told his supporters at the presidential palace. “We can conduct a vote of confidence on this as well. Would we? What did England do — they did Brexit, right?”

“Either they will hold their promises to Turkey or they’ll have to bear the consequences,” he added. Erdogan has also vowed to consider reinstating the death penalty — a move that would all but end prospects of EU membership. But, he insisted, other nations’ opinions on the issue are irrelevant to him.

“Our concern is not what George or Hans or Helga says. Our concern is what Hatice, Ayse, Fatma, Ahmet, Mehmet, Hasan, Hüseyin says,” he thundered as the crowd of supporters chanted for the return of capital punishment. “What Allah says. That’s why our parliament will make this decision.”

Both Germany and France expressed concern about possible election irregularities and called on Erdogan to engage in dialogue with the opposition. “The narrow result of the vote shows how deeply split the Turkish society is,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said in a joint statement. “This implies a big responsibility for the Turkish government and President Erdogan personally.”

President Donald Trump, meanwhile, ignored the concerns about voting irregularities and congratulated Erdogan on his referendum victory. The two leaders also discussed Turkey’s support of the U.S. response to a Syrian chemical weapons attack and efforts to counter the Islamic State group, according to the White House statement on their phone call Monday.

The White House previously sidestepped questions about how the referendum was conducted, but the U.S. State Department had echoed the concerns raised by the OSCE, with spokesman Mark Toner pointing to “observed irregularities” on voting day and “an uneven playing field” during the campaign.

Such concerns are unlikely to move Erdogan. The referendum approves 18 constitutional amendments to replace Turkey’s parliamentary system with a presidential one. The president will be able to appoint ministers, senior government officials and to hold sway over who sits in Turkey’s highest judicial body, as well as to issue decrees and declare states of emergency. They set a limit of two five-year terms for presidents.

The new system takes effect at the next election, currently slated for 2019. Other changes are to be implemented sooner, including scrapping a requirement that the president not be a member of any political party. This would allow Erdogan to rejoin the governing AK Party he co-founded, or to lead it.

“Erdogan dominated the national media. He imposed a very restrictive environment for the ‘no’ camp,” said Fadi Hakura, a Turkey specialist at the London-based Chatham House think tank. “He secured a thin majority of 1 percent. This suggests that Erdogan will become more robust and more challenging to deal with.”

Associated Press writers Suzan Fraser in Ankara and Zeynep Bilginsoy and Bram Janssen in Istanbul contributed to this report.

Turkish opposition party files to have referendum voided

April 18, 2017

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey’s prime minister on Tuesday called on the opposition to respect the result of a referendum that will give sweeping new powers to the office of the president, but the main opposition party formally requested to have the vote voided.

Sunday’s vote gave President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s “yes” camp a narrow win for constitutional changes that will abolish the office of the prime minister and convert Turkey’s system of government from a parliamentary to a presidential one.

The referendum took place under a state of emergency that was declared following a failed military coup last summer. Turkey’s parliament agreed Tuesday to extend for another three months the emergency powers allowing the government to rule by decree.

Bulent Tezcan, deputy chairman of the opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, said the party filed a formal request seeking the referendum’s annulment due to voting irregularities. He said the party would use all legal paths to challenge the vote.

“We demand the cancellation of this referendum,” Tezcan said. The opposition has cited several problems with how the vote was conducted. But it has been particularly outraged by an electoral board decision, announced as the polls closed Sunday, to accept ballots that didn’t bear the official stamps used to verify they are genuine, as required by Turkish law.

Monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, who also listed numerous irregularities, said the board’s move undermined important election safeguards. The assessment drew a harsh rebuke from Erdogan and criticism from Prime Minister Binali Yildirim.

“Efforts to cast a shadow on the result of the vote by spreading rumors of fraud are futile and in vain,” Yildirim said. “The will of the people was freely reflected into the ballot boxes, and this business is over. Everyone and all sections — and the main opposition party in particular — must show respect. It is wrong to speak after the people have spoken.”

Republican People’s Party leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu accused the electoral board of bias and of favoring the governing party. “It is clear that the High Electoral Board is not receiving its power from the people, the law or the constitution, but rather from a specific center, a specific political authority,” Kilicdaroglu told his party’s lawmakers in Ankara Tuesday.

The board’s decision to accept ballots without official stamps was like “changing the rules midgame,” he said. Hundreds of people lined up outside election board offices in Ankara and Istanbul to submit petitions requesting the board reverse its pronouncement.

In Ankara, Fatma Korur, 46, said she was exercising her constitutional right to object to “illegal” results. Another petitioner, Fusun Cicekoglu, 61, said, “I will not accept my ‘no’ vote be voided and I will not accept ‘yes’ ballots cast illegally.”

The referendum allows Erdogan, who has ruled Turkey since he became prime minister in 2003 and then president in 2014, to fulfill his long-held ambition for a presidency with executive powers. The referendum approves 18 constitutional amendments that allow the president to appoint ministers, senior government officials and to hold sway over who sits on Turkey’s highest judicial body, as well as to issue decrees and to declare states of emergency.

The new system takes full effect at the next election, currently slated for November 2019. Other changes are to be implemented sooner, including scrapping a requirement that the president not be a member of any political party. This would allow Erdogan to rejoin the governing AKP he co-founded, or to lead it.

On Tuesday, Yildirim said Erdogan would be invited to join the party as soon as the official results are declared. “We will invite our founding chairman to our party and we will feel a huge elation to see him among us,” he said.

Election monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe were seen entering the High Electoral Board headquarters in Ankara. Tana de Zulueta, head of the observer mission, told reporters that the group had paid a courtesy call and held a “cordial” meeting with electoral board members.

Asked to comment on Erdogan’s rebuke, de Zulueta said: “I don’t have an opinion. We are invited by the Turkish authorities to observe. We share our report and we completed our mandate.” In Istanbul, thousands of “no” supporters continued their demonstrations Tuesday, carrying banners that said “Don’t give in” and chanting “Thief, Murderer, Erdogan!”

Protesters were fewer in number in Ankara, where they were outnumbered by police officers. “We are here today for the sake of Turkey, to live together, to take a stand for our votes,” protester Tezcan Karakus Candan said.

U.S. President Donald Trump, meanwhile, ignored the concerns about voting irregularities and congratulated Erdogan on his referendum victory. The two leaders also discussed Turkey’s support for the U.S. response to a Syrian chemical weapons attack and efforts to counter the Islamic State group, according to a White House summary of their phone call Monday.

Bilginsoy contributed from Istanbul and Mehmet Guzel contributed from Ankara.

Win claimed for Turkey gov’t referendum; critics call fraud

April 16, 2017

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared victory in Sunday’s referendum that will grant sweeping powers to the presidency, hailing the result as 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 president struck a conciliatory tone, 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 kilometers,” Erdogan said.

Returns carried by the state-run Anadolu news agency showed that with nearly 99 percent of the vote counted, the “yes” vote had about 51.3 percent compared to 48.7 percent for the “no” vote. Turkey’s main opposition party vowed to challenge the results reported by Anadolu agency, saying they were skewed.

Erdogan has long sought to broaden his powers, but a previous attempt failed after the governing party that he co-founded fell short of enough votes to pass the reforms without holding a referendum. Opponents argued the plan concentrate too much power in the hands of a man they allege has shown increasingly autocratic tendencies.

The outcome is expected to have a huge effect on Turkey’s long-term political future and its international relations. Although the result, if officially confirmed, would fall short of the sweeping victory Erdogan had sought, but nevertheless cements his hold on the country’s governance.

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,” Yildirim said, adding that “a new page has opened in our democratic history with this vote. Be sure that we will use this result for our people’s welfare and peace in the best way.”

Erdogan supporters gathered outside the AK Party headquarters in Istanbul to celebrate, sending fireworks into the night sky. But the main opposition People’s Democratic Party, or CHP, cast doubt on the results. CHP vice chairman Erdal Aksunger said they would challenge 37 percent of the ballot boxes.

“Our data indicates a manipulation in the range of 3 to 4 percent,” the party said on its Twitter account. The country’s pro-Kurdish opposition party, which also opposed the constitutional changes, said it plans to object to two-thirds of the ballots.

An unprecedented decision by Turkey’s Supreme Election board to accept as valid ballot papers that don’t have the official stamp also drew the ire of the CHP, with the party’s deputy chairman, Bulent Tezcan, saying the decision had left the referendum “with a serious legitimacy problem.”

The board made the announcement after many voters complained about being given ballot papers without the official stamp, saying ballots would be considered invalid only if proven to have been fraudulently cast.

Sunday’s vote approved 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. The changes will come into effect with the next general election, scheduled for 2019.

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. They set a limit of two five-year terms for presidents and also allow the president to remain at the helm of a political party.

Erdogan and his supporters had argued the “Turkish-style” presidential system would bring stability and prosperity in a country rattled by a failed coup last year that left more than 200 people dead, and a series of devastating attacks by the Islamic State group and Kurdish militants.

But opponents fear the changes will lead to autocratic one-man rule, ensuring that the 63-year-old Erdogan, who has been accused of repressing rights and freedoms, could govern until 2029 with few checks and balances.

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.” At one Istanbul polling station, eager voters lined up outside before it opened at 8 a.m.

“I don’t want to get on a bus with no brake system. A one-man system is like that,” said Istanbul resident Husnu Yahsi, 61, who said he was voting “no.” In another Istanbul neighborhood, a “yes” voter expressed full support for Erdogan.

“Yes, yes, yes! Our leader is the gift of God to us,” said Mualla Sengul. “We will always support him. He’s governing so well.” Erdogan first came to power in 2003 as prime minister and served in that role until becoming Turkey’s first directly elected president in 2014.

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 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.

Still, a widespread government crackdown has targeted followers of Gulen and other government opponents, branding them terrorists and a state of emergency has been imposed. Roughly 100,000 people — including judges, teachers, academics, doctors, journalists, military officials and police — have lost their jobs in the government crackdown, and more than 40,000 have been arrested. Hundreds of media outlets and non-governmental organizations have been shut down.

Turkey has also suffered renewed violence between Kurdish militants and security forces in the country’s volatile southeast, as well as a string of bombings, some attributed to the Islamic State group, which is active across the border in Syria.

The war in Syria has led to some 3 million refugees crossing the border into Turkey. Turkey has sent troops into Syria to help opposition Syrian forces clear a border area from the threat posed by Islamic State militants.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s relations with Europe have been increasingly tense, particularly after Erdogan branded Germany and the Netherlands as Nazis for not allowing Turkish ministers to campaign for the “yes” vote among expatriate Turks.

Fraser reported from Ankara. Bram Janssen in Istanbul and Mucahit Ceylan in Diyarbakir also contributed to this report.

Yes or No? Divided Turks vote on expanding president’s power

April 16, 2017

ISTANBUL (AP) — Voting has ended in Turkey’s historic referendum on whether to approve constitutional changes that would greatly expand the powers of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The result of Sunday’s referendum will determine Turkey’s long-term political future and will likely have lasting effects on its relations with the European Union and the world.

If the “yes” vote prevails, the 18 constitutional changes 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 and his supporters say the “Turkish-style” presidential system would bring stability and prosperity in a country rattled by last year’s coup attempt and a series of devastating attacks by the Islamic State group and Kurdish militants.

But opponents fear the changes will lead to autocratic one-man rule, ensuring that the 63-year-old Erdogan, who has been accused of repressing rights and freedoms, could govern until 2029 with few checks and balances.

More than 55 million people in this country of about 80 million were registered to vote. More than 1.3 million Turkish voters cast their ballots abroad. 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.”

Erdogan described the referendum as an opportunity for “change and transformation” as he voted Sunday in Istanbul, where black-clad bodyguards with automatic weapons stood guard outside the polling station.

“We need to make a decision that is beyond the ordinary,” Erdogan said. Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of Turkey’s main opposition party and top “no” campaigner, called the referendum a vote on Turkey’s future.

“We hope the results will be good and together we can have the opportunity to discuss Turkey’s other fundamental problems,” he said. At one Istanbul polling station, eager voters lined up outside before it opened at 8 a.m.

“We are here early to say ‘no’ for our country, for our children and grandchildren,” said retired tax officer Murtaza Ali Turgut. His wife Zeynep agreed, saying: “I was going to come sleep here last night to vote at first light.”

Istanbul resident Husnu Yahsi, 61, also said he was voting “no”. “I don’t want to get on a bus with no brake system. A one-man system is like that,” he said. In another Istanbul neighborhood, a “yes” voter expressed full support for Erdogan.

“Yes, yes, yes! Our leader is the gift of God to us,” said Mualla Sengul. “We will always support him. He’s governing so well.” The official Anadolu news agency reported that military helicopters flew ballots and elections officers to some districts of the southeastern predominantly Kurdish region of Diyarbakir due to security reasons.

The proposed changes would grant the president powers to appoint ministers, senior government officials and half the members of Turkey’s highest judicial body, as well as issue decrees and declare states of emergency. It sets a limit of two five-year terms for presidents and also allows the president to remain at the helm of a political party. The changes would come into effect with the next general election, scheduled for 2019.

Erdogan first came to power in 2003 as prime minister and served in that role until becoming Turkey’s first directly elected president in 2014. He has long sought to expand the powers of the president.

The campaign has been highly 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, recording more than 100 incidents of obstruction to its campaign efforts, including beatings, detentions and threats.

Observers from the 57-nation Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, who were monitoring the vote. Prior to Sunday, they had noted intimidation of the “no” side, leading to a sharp rebuke from Erdogan.

The vote comes at a time when 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.

Still, a widespread government crackdown has targeted followers of Gulen and other government opponents, branding them terrorists and a state of emergency imposed after the coup attempt remains in effect.

Roughly 100,000 people — including judges, teachers, academics, doctors, journalists, military officials and police — have lost their jobs in the government crackdown, and more than 40,000 have been arrested. Hundreds of media outlets and non-governmental organizations have been shut down.

Turkey has also suffered renewed violence between Kurdish militants and security forces in the country’s volatile southeast, as well as a string of bombings, some attributed to the Islamic State group, which is active across the border in Syria.

The war in Syria has led to some 3 million refugees crossing the border into Turkey. Turkey has sent troops into Syria to help opposition Syrian forces clear a border area from the threat posed by Islamic State militants.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s relations with Europe have been increasingly tense, particularly after Erdogan branded Germany and the Netherlands as Nazis for not allowing Turkish ministers to campaign for the “yes” vote among expatriate Turks.

Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Bram Janssen in Istanbul and Mucahit Ceylan in Diyarbakir contributed to this report.

Turkey votes on referendum to increase presidential powers

By Allen Cone

April 16, 2017

April 16 (UPI) — Turkish voters went to the polls Sunday on granting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sweeping new powers.

Erdogan cast his vote with his wife Emine and other family members at a school near his home in Istanbul.

“This April 16 referendum is not an ordinary voting [process],” Erdogan told reporters said after casting his ballot. “We have had many parliamentary elections in our history as a republic. In the meantime, we have also had referendums. However, this referendum is a decision on a new administrative system, a change and a transformation in the Republic of Turkey. I hope our people will make a decision to pave the way for a quick development. … We need to grow quicker and walk faster.”

Voters can vote Yes or No to an 18-article proposal to switch Turkey from a parliamentary to a presidential system.

Erodgan would be able to appoint cabinet ministers, issue decrees, choose senior judges and dissolve parliament. Also, the change would lower the minimum age for lawmakers to 18 from 25, increase the number of seats in parliament from 550 to 600, close down military courts, and introduce same-day parliamentary and presidential elections every five years.

The prime minister post would be abolished after the 2019 national elections if the referendum passes. Term limits for the president would be changed and Erdogan would be allowed to remain in power until 2029.

The ruling Justice and Development Party and the Nationalist Movement Party backed the changes.

Parliament previously passed a reform bill 339-142, nine more votes than needed to put the proposal to a referendum.

Opposed to the proposals are the Republican People’s Party and the Democratic People’s Party. Critics fear the president’s position would be too powerful without the checks and balances of other presidential systems.

“We carried out a nice campaign process,” Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the Republican People’s Party told CNN Turk. “I am so happy. I hope the result will be good and then we will talk about the main problems of Turkey.”

More than 55 million people are eligible to vote at 167,000 polling sites between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. or 5 p.m., depending on the location in the country.

At a polling station in the southeast, two people were shot dead.

The country has been operating under a state of emergency after a failed coup last July.

The failed coup led Erdogan to crack down on his opposition, arresting 47,155 government critics, academics, journalists, military officials and civil servants.

Edogan became president in 2014 after serving as prime minister for more than a decade.

“I believe our people will walk towards the future by making their expected decisions and by casting their votes inside [Turkey] and overseas,” Erdogan said. ” I believe in our people’s common sense of democracy and that they will walk towards the future though this common sense.”

Source: United Press International.

Link: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2017/04/16/Turkey-votes-on-referrendum-to-increase-presidential-powers/2491492351239/.

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