Historic referendum in Turkey grants more power to president

German chancellor Angela Merkel said Turkish leaders should open talks with opponents and the European Union after a narrow referendum victory, while the French government urged president Recep Tayyip Erdogan not to use the result to bring back capital punishment.

Germany said on Monday the close result in Turkey's referendum on expanding Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's powers was a big responsibility for him to bear and showed how divided Turkish society was. A total of 47.5 million votes were cast, the Anadolu news agency said.

With the opposition crying foul over alleged violations, all eyes will be on Monday afternoon's announcement by global observers from the OSCE and the Council of Europe who will give their initial assessment of the vote.

With more than 99 percent of the ballots counted, 51.34 percent of people said "yes" to increase Erdogan's powers compared with 48.667 percent that cast "no" votes. However, three amendments will automatically come into effect following the publication of official election results in 10 to 11 days, according to Mehmet Elitas, the deputy chairman of the governing party, AKP. That caused Erdogan to accuse German and Dutch officials of acting like Nazis which, in turn, prompted strong condemnation of the Turkish president's words from European leaders. The prime minister's post is to be abolished.

"Turkey's two main opposition parties are now challenging two-thirds of the vote, stating, "'There is an indication of a 3-4 percentage point manipulation of the vote".

Erdogan's victory was far tighter than expected, emerging only after several nail-biting hours late Sunday which saw the "no" result dramatically catch up in the later count.

He also said the decision of the YSK election board to accept unstamped ballots was clearly against the law.

Earlier, amendments to Turkey's Constitution got more than 330 votes in the Parliament, which allows putting the Constitutional changes to a public voting.

It was Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev who first called Erdogan and congratulated him on referendum win. The system is created to ensure only one vote is cast per registered voter and to avoid the possibility of ballot box stuffing. The AP reports that supporters of the "yes" vote have dominated the airwaves, while supporters of the "no" vote have complained of intimidation.

Turkey's opposition parties are bracing for a long and arduous struggle for democracy.

Turkey declared the state of emergency to facilitate its crackdown on the network of followers of USA -based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey blames for the a failed coup attempt in July.

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 German foreign minister, talking to reporters in Tirana, Albania, said that Brussels should intensively work to find channels of dialogue on "how to impact so that Turkey remains a democratic country".

The ballot for Turkey's referendum was remarkably simple.

  • Elsie Buchanan