Turkish controversial referendum to increase the President’s powers ended in even more deeper controversy as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan claimed slim victory as the opposition cried foul.
The referendum leaves the country sharply divided with the two sides separated by a razor thin margin in the hotly contested push to expand presidential powers.
There were two sides, the “yes” vote and the “No” vote. The Yes was reported to have garnered 51.4% while the No side got 48.6%. The Anadolu news agency reported that 47.5 million people turned out for the exercise.
Voters were put at task whether to endorse an 18-article that would do away with the current system of parliamentary democracy and introduce a powerful executive presidency. The ruling Justice and Development Party put forward the reforms that have since gained mixed support.
Claimed Victory in Secrecy
The president claimed to have gained victory at a low-key speech, in which he called for unity and peace. He termed the referendum a historic one, adding that the voters had participated in conducting important reforms in the nation.
Mr Erdoğan said that he would begin initiatives to restore the death penalty, a move that will any of Turkish hopes to join the European Union.
However, the opposition CHP party would have none of that. It said that it had begun investigating 37% of the ballot boxes that are said to have been tampered with.
CHP protested after the High Electoral Board made a last minute decision to use ballots that lacked official stamps.
Under normal circumstances, the electoral board usually stamps the ballot boxes before issuing them to the voters. However, the board announced at the 11th hour that it would take the unstamped ballots provided there was no evidence of malpractice.
CHP deputy chairman Bulent Tezcan said at the party’s headquarters in Ankara that “The High Electoral Board has failed by allowing fraud in the referendum.”
With the Yes victory, the government can do away with the century-old parliamentary system.
But opponents of the new system warn the possibility of throwing Turkey into a dictatorship as too much power will be surrounded on Mr Erdoğan who has so far cracked down on dissent after last year’s failed coup attempt.
Will oppose the results
The opponents staged demonstrations on Monday across the country protesting the results. The result’s legitimacy has been question by the Republican People’s Party (CHP), complaining that the election rules had been changed to favor one side.
All the indications point towards the Yes camp being crowned the victors even though the official results will wait until 10 days after all the objections has been considered.
Mr Erdogan ascended to the presidency in the 2014 elections after having held the Prime Minister post for over a decade.
During his first days in office, the position was somewhat a ceremonial one but he has since turned it into significant power and cemented his grip on it.
The changes being made propose only a two-term president but under special circumstance may seek a third term. With these changes, there is the possibility of Erdogan serving until 2029 if he wins the 2019 and 2024 elections.