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President Erdogan clinches victory in Turkish constitutional referendum

By       Message Abdus-Sattar Ghazali       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink

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The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Sunday (April 16) achieved victory in a historic referendum on a package of constitutional amendments that will introduce presidential form of government like France and the United States.

In a press conference in Istanbul following his party's declaration of victory, Erdoğan said that unofficial results showed there were about 25m yes votes, 1.3m more than no.

Erdoğan said foreign powers should respect the referendum's outcome. "For the first time in the history of the Republic, we are changing our ruling system through civil politics," Erdogan said, referring to the military coups which marred Turkish politics for decades. "That is why it is very significant."

Under the changes, most of which will only come into effect after the next elections due in 2019, the president will appoint the cabinet and an undefined number of vice-presidents, and be able to select and remove senior civil servants without parliamentary approval.

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Supreme Electoral Council President Sadi Guven also confirmed that the "yes" votes had prevailed, according to unofficial results. He said official results would arrive in about 10 days, after any objections had been considered. The yes campaign won 1.25m more votes than the no campaign, with only about 600,000 votes still to be counted, Guven told reporters in Ankara.

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.

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Constitutional Reforms

The package of 18 amendments would abolish the office of prime minister and give the president the authority to draft the budget, declare a state of emergency and issue decrees overseeing ministries without parliamentary approval. The draft states: 1.The next presidential and parliamentary elections will be held on November 3, 2019. 2.The president would have a five-year tenure, for a maximum of two terms. 3.The president would be able to directly appoint top public officials, including ministers. 4. He would also be able to assign one or several vice-presidents 5.The office of prime minister, currently held by Binali Yildirim, would be scrapped. 6. The president would decide whether or not impose a state of emergency.

The current constitution, written by generals following a 1980 military coup.

President Erdogan says the changes are needed to address Turkey's security challenges nine months after an attempted coup, and to avoid the fragile coalition governments of the past. The new system, he argues, 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, which has led to a huge refugee influx. Speaking at one of his final rallies in Istanbul's Tuzla district, President Erdogan told supporters the new constitution would "bring stability and trust that is needed for our country to develop and grow".

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. Opponents say it is a step towards greater authoritarianism in a country where around 40,000 people have been arrested and 120,000 sacked or suspended from their jobs in a crackdown following a failed coup last July, drawing criticism from Turkey's Western allies and rights groups.

Cautious Western Reaction

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The West offered cautious reaction to President Erdogan's referendum victory

The European Union (EU) urged the Turkish government to seek the broadest possible national consensus. "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," said a statement issued by European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker, EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini and EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn.

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
 

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