Monitors criticise Turkey referendum; Erdogan denounces 'crusader mentality'

A woman casts her ballot at a polling station in Ataturk Library during a referendum in Istanbul

A woman casts her ballot at a polling station in Ataturk Library during a referendum in Istanbul Turkey

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has suggested holding a referendum on reinstating the death penalty-a move that, if successful, would end the country's long-running attempt to join the European Union.

When Erdogan took over the largely ceremonial post of President after serving 11 years as Prime Minister, one thought this was the beginning of the gradual phase-out of the 63-year-old politician. The French presidency said it "took note" of the figures and the "disputes" surrounding them, saying they showed "that Turkish society is divided over the proposed deep reforms".

A ballot is handed to a voter inside a polling station in Ankara on Sunday.

The CHP is refusing to accept the Yes victory and is demanding a recount of 60% of the votes, criticising a decision to pass unstamped ballot papers as valid unless proven otherwise.

Voters from overseas have provided a strong support to the referendum with more than 48 percent turnout.

"What is disconcerting for him [Erdogan] is not just the opposition, which is crying foul, but the fact that nearly 50 percent of the people voted against this massive change and may not be willing to accept the result easily", Aliriza said.

Bulent Tezcan, deputy chairman of Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party, is citing irregularities in Sunday's referendum which approved constitutional changes that will grant the country's president greater powers.

For the families of the tens of thousands locked up over the last nine months since the coup attempt - and Turkey's liberals and non-conservatives - there is a terrible sense of despair at the direction their country is taking.

Mr Erdogan, a populist with a background in once-banned Islamist parties, has ruled since 2003 with no real rival, while his country emerged as one of the fastest-growing industrial powers in both Europe and the Middle East. Following decisions by German and Dutch authorities to block pro-Erdogan rallies in their countries ahead of the referendum, the Turkish president characterized his European opponents as the "grandchildren of Nazism".

Germany, home to the largest number of Turks outside Turkey, said the apparent closeness of the result highlights a deep division in the country. With more than 99% of ballots counted, "Yes" was on 51.35% and "No" on 48.65%. "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". Opposition parties announced they would challenge the count.

The changes allow the president to appoint ministers, senior government officials and half the members of Turkey's highest judicial body, as well as to issue decrees and declare states of emergency.

Under the new system, power will be concentrated under the president, who was previously head of state, but not head of government. Supporters of the "no" vote complained of intimidation, including beatings, detentions and threats.

The official results will arrive in about 10 days, after any objections have been considered, Supreme Electoral Council President Sadi Guven said. Turkey's electoral board confirmed the "yes" victory.

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