Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the country’s prime minister have declared victory in a Sunday referendum designed to hand Erdogan sweeping powers.
The Turkish Election Commission has yet to release its official results, and the opposition promised to contest at least a third of the votes cast. But according to the state-run Anadolu Agency, with 99.8% of the ballots counted, Erdogan appeared poised to win with 51.4% of voters casting ballots in his favor.
A total of 47.5 million votes were cast, Anadolu said.
Supreme Electoral Council President Sadi Guven also confirmed that the “yes” votes had prevailed, according to unofficial results. He said official results would arrive in about 10 days, after any objections had been considered.
Voters were asked to endorse an 18-article reform package put forward by the ruling Justice and Development Party that would replace the current system of parliamentary democracy with a powerful executive presidency.
“God willing, these results will be the beginning of a new era in our country,” Erdogan said at a news conference Sunday night, explaining that unofficial totals indicated the “yes” votes had prevailed in the referendum by about 1.3 million ballots, while Anadolu pegged it at closer to 1.14 million.
Several groups fighting in Syria tweeted their congratulations to Turkey, and according to Anadolu, Azerbaijani, Palestinian, Qatari, Pakistani, Hungarian, Macedonian, Saudi, Sudanese and Kenyan leaders passed along congratulatory messages to Turkey’s Foreign Ministry.
Shortly before Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım declared a victory for Erdogan, thousands converged in celebration at the Ankara headquarters of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, that Erdogan founded. The revelers danced, sang, chanted, lit flares, honked their car horns and waved Turkish flags along with white flags saying, “Evet” — Turkish for yes — which appeared to be the way the majority of voters cast their ballots.
Many in attendance saw the referendum’s result as an important message for the world, not just the nation. Wasin Yalcin, 24, said the vote represented “a new hope for us to get rid of foreign forces,” while Yusuf Basaran, 20, said he believed “Europe’s spine has cracked. This referendum will be the most effective thing in the rebirth of the Ottoman Empire.”
Added Aysel Can, a member of the AKP’s women’s branch, “For a strong Islamic state, for a strong Middle East, Turkey had to switch to this executive presidency system. This is a message to the world to shut up; Turkey is getting stronger. America has to know this, too. We are the voice, we are the ears, we are everything for the Middle East.”
Erdogan called Yıldırım and the leaders of the right-wing National Movement and Great Unity parties to offer “congratulations for the referendum victory” before the final vote tally was announced, according to Anadolu.
Yildirim later took the stage at AKP headquarters in Ankara to herald a win for the “yes” vote. He said those who voted yes and those who voted no remain one, and now the country will look to improve the economy, expedite development and fight its foreign and domestic enemies.
“No one should have an offended or broken heart,” the prime minister said. “There’s no stopping. We will continue our path. We will continue marching on from where we left.”
Written by: CNN