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Turkey votes to expand president’s powers wih minimal margin; critics cry fraud - by E. Becatoros, S. Fraser and Z.Bilginsoy

Turkey Referendum :Erdogan 's intimidation worked  barely
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won a historic referendum Sunday that will greatly expand the powers of his office, although opposition parties questioned the outcome and said they would challenge the results.

With 99 percent of the ballots counted, the “yes” vote stood at 51.37 percent, while the “no” vote was 48.63 percent, according to the state-run Anadolu Agency. The head of Turkey’s electoral board confirmed the “yes” victory and said final results will be declared in 11-12 days.

Although the margin fell short of the sweeping victory Erdogan had sought in the landmark referendum, it could nevertheless cement his hold on power in Turkey and is expected to have a huge effect on the country’s long-term political future and its international relations.

The 18 constitutional amendments that will come into effect after the next election, scheduled for 2019, will abolish the office of the prime minister and hand sweeping executive powers to the president.

In his first remarks from Istanbul, Erdogan struck a conciliatory tone, thanking all voters no matter how they cast their ballots and calling the referendum a “historic decision.”

“April 16 is the victory of all who said ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ of the whole 80 million, of the whole of Turkey,” Erdogan told reporters in address that was televised live.

But he quickly reverted to a more abrasive style when addressing thousands of flag-waving supporters in Istanbul

“There are those who are belittling the result. They shouldn’t try, it will be in vain,” he said. “It’s too late now.”

Responding to chants from the crowd to reinstate the death penalty, Erdogan said he would take up the issue with the country’s political leaders, adding that the question could be put to another referendum if the political leaders could not agree.

Note EU-Digest: Given the result of the referendum and charges of intimidation in addition to the possibility of massive electoral fraud, President Erdogan, in all reality, can not really claim he got a sweeping mandate to change the Turkish Constitution in this referendum

The fears of electoral fraud and government meddling is now more relevant than ever, fueled by the extraordinary powers the government wields under the state of emergency. 

The badly crippled Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the main Kurdish political force, which has been trying to soldier on with its “no” campaign against its main rival, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has also voiced their concerns.

HDP members say they have been facing the “unchecked power” of the government, reflected not only in obstructions to their campaigns, but also in moves to keep party activists away from polling stations today, March 16.

Read more: Turkey votes to expand president’s powers; critics cry fraud - The Washington Post

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