Erdogan Hints at Referendum on Turkey's EU Accession

The referendum was seen as crucial not just for shaping Turkey's political system but also the future strategic direction of a nation that has been a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member since 1952 and a European Union hopeful for half a century.

Erdogan won with 51,5 percent of the vote, or about 25 million voters, and his camp narrowly lost in some of the major cities like Istanbul and Ankara, but relied on strong support from the rural communities.

For his part, Erdogan told opponents to give it up and stop "tiring themselves out" by challenging the referendum results (they did)-the Yes vote received 51.4 percent of the vote, and was pushed to victory in part by Turks voting overseas.

Opposition parties complained of a series of irregularities, including an electoral board decision to accept ballots that did not bear official stamps, as required by Turkish law.

"This is why the only decision that will end debate about the legitimacy (of the vote) and ease the people's legal concerns is the annulment of this election", deputy party chairman Bulent Tezcan said.

Global observers on Monday said the referendum campaign was conducted on an "unlevel playing field". Monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, who also listed numerous irregularities, said the move undermined safeguards against fraud. Official results are expected within 12 days.

There has been some speculation that Erdogan could call a new election so that his new powers could take effect right away, but Simsek dismissed that.

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. The president will have the power to dissolve parliament and declare a state of emergency, while enjoying enhanced powers to appoint judges to the high court and constitutional court. To the European Union, which Erdogan has been trying to join for a number of years, there are elements of the constitutional changes that member states seem to invalidate the Turkish request.

The initial reaction from Turkey's Western allies was far from ebullient, with top European Union officials saying Turkey had to find the "broadest possible" agreement on the changes in view of the closeness of the result.

"The (German) government expects that the Turkish government will now seek respectful dialogue with all political and social forces in the country, after this tough election campaign", Merkel said in a statement issued jointly with Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel.

They also come just eight months after the Turkish president survived a failed coup.

The changes could keep him in power until 2029 or beyond, making him easily the most important figure in Turkish history since state founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk built a modern nation from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire after World War One.

A spokesman for the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, said claims from neutral observers of election irregularities had been "examined attentively" in Brussels.

  • Elsie Buchanan