Erdogan Wins Turkey Referendum, Opposition Kicks

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) - Turkey's main opposition party on Monday prepared to contest the results of a landmark referendum that gave a narrow victory to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's long-time plans to greatly expand the powers of his office. The OSCE report took Turkish authorities to task for what it described as a highly imbalanced media environment that favored Erdogan's "Yes" camp, the use of state resources to promote the "Yes" position, press restrictions on opposition and political arrests, and harassment of opponents ahead of the vote to change Turkey from a parliamentary to a presidential system of governance.

The head of Turkey's electoral board confirmed the "yes" victory and said final results would be declared in 11-12 days.

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

Three of Turkey's biggest cities - Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir - all voted No to the constitutional changes.

"I would classify this as at best a Pyrrhic victory for him", Hakura told AFP, adding Erdogan "lost the base of his support".

But as he addressed thousands of flag-waving supporters in Istanbul a short time later, he was more defiant. "As seen here", tweeted Has Avrat, a blogger and photographer who was watching the official results come in. "It's too late now".

The president today is supposed to be impartial and not have ties to a political party, but the new constitution would do away with that rule and allow Erdogan to reinstate himself as the head of the AKP.

He also took a dig at worldwide critics.

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"We want other countries and organizations to show respect to the decision of our people". Critics argue the reforms will hand extensive power to a man with an increasingly autocratic bent, leaving few checks and balances in place. Tezcan said they were preparing their files to apply to the YSK, which agreed to accept unsealed ballot papers as valid halfway through voting day, for the annulment of the referendum, vowing that they would also apply to the Constitutional Court and the ECHR if necessary.

The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) said they would challenge the results from most of the ballot boxes due to alleged violations. "Therefore it is not right to question the decision", said Supreme Electoral Council President Sadi Guven.

Turkey is divided between those who are celebrating a win in a national referendum, and those demanding a recount. "The result will depend on how far the opposition will take their claim of irregularity in the voting, and what the worldwide reaction will be".

Initial reaction from overseas was cautious.

"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.

Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz commented on the outcome of the referendum in Turkey to say that this country has clearly decided against the EU.

"I suspect the result was narrower than what Erdogan expected", said Howard Eissenstat, associate professor of Middle East History at St. Lawrence University in the United States. He added that "collaboration with the European Union will be even more complex".

Erdogan's face dominated the billboards and the public spaces, but the disparate no campaign dominated the street. Supporters of the "no" vote have complained of intimidation, including beatings, detentions and threats.

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