Middle East Turkey's Erdogan claims victory in contested referendum

Turkey's Erdogan claims victory in contested referendum
The Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and his wife, Emine wave to supporters in Istanbul following the referendum. (Photo: Turkish President Press Office)

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan24) - Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed victory on Sunday over a disputed referendum that will transfer parliamentary powers to his office, a move the opposition fears could lead to a more authoritarian administration.

The constitutional reform package, made up of 18 articles, provides Erdogan with executive powers giving him the ability to dissolve parliament, declare a state of emergency, issue decrees, and form a cabinet as well as the capacity to appoint top judicial, bureaucratic, and military officials without a parliamentary vote of confidence.

Over 55 million registered voters went to more than 167 thousand polling stations across the country, only to bring about a result that further polarized Turkey as the hours passed following the opening of ballot boxes in the evening.

The public-funded Anadolu agency which was the only media outlet with full, nation-wide access to monitor the voting process announced the final results to be around 51.4 percent “yes” against 48.5 percent “no,” accounting for all boxes opened both in Turkey and countries where Turkish nationals could cast their votes.

The pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP) which vigorously campaigned for a ‘no’ vote during the pre-referendum campaign, said the results provided by the Anadolu were not the final, saying Erdogan and the government had to wait for an official announcement by the Supreme Electoral Council.

Speaking to reporters at the HDP headquarters in the Turkish capital of Ankara, the party’s spokesperson Osman Baydemir questioned the legitimacy of the vote, saying it was conducted under a state of emergency as their Co-leaders Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag remained imprisoned.

A confident Erdogan meanwhile carried a victory speech at the Ottoman-era Huber Palace on the Bosphorus to thousands of his supporters, promising to put judiciary, legislative and executive branches of the government under the “service of one nation, one flag, and one state.”

Erdogan, who survived a July 2016 coup attempt by a rogue clique within the Turkish army, promised to approve a reintroduction of the death penalty if passed by the Justice and Development Party (AKP)-dominated parliament.

The leader of the People’s Republican Party (CHP) Kemal Kilicdaroglu declared that “more than 50 percent” of the people voted ‘no,’ in remarks that challenged the Erdogan camp’s claim of a decisive victory.

Kilicdaroglu accused AKP’s ‘yes’ campaign of falling out of line with the law, raising thousands of complaints of electoral fraud from across the country.


(Kurdistan24 bureaux and reporters in the cities of Diyarbakir, Ankara, and Istanbul, Turkey contributed to this report.)

Editing by Gabrielle Renaud