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Published: Mon, April 17, 2017
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

Germany glad bitter Turkish referendum campaign over - foreign minister


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has narrowly won a referendum to expand presidential powers, which could keep him in office until 2029.

Votes for constitutional change to hand President Tayyip Erdogan sweeping powers held a narrow lead with nearly all ballot boxes opened on Sunday, but Turkey's three largest cities and the mainly Kurdish southeast looked set to vote "No".

Erdogan and his supporters say the "Turkish-style" presidential system would bring stability and prosperity in a country rattled by last year's coup attempt and a series of devastating attacks by the Islamic State group and Kurdish militants.

The vote in the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir started one hour earlier at 7am (0400 GMT).

Critics say a switch to presidential system is part of a grab by Erdogan for one-man rule, but supporters say it will simply put Turkey in line with France and the United States and is needed for efficient government.

At one Istanbul polling station, eager voters lined up outside before it opened at 8 a.m. Erdogan, who became president in 2014 after serving as premier from 2003, could then seek two more five-year terms.

Erdogan said he hopes the referendum results would benefit Turkey, and that the nation made a "historic decision", in an address after Yildirim's declaration.

The result of Sunday's referendum will determine Turkey's long-term political future and will likely have lasting effects on its relations with the European Union and the world.

Erdogan's vote Mr Erdogan voted in the Üsküdar district of Istanbul with his wife Emine shortly before midday, pausing briefly for cameras and chatting with supporters who chanted supportive slogans. "A one-man system is like that".

He said there were election observers in Turkey and the German government "would of course respect a result that came about in a free and democratic vote".

"Yes, yes, yes! Our leader is the gift of God to us", said Mualla Sengul.

"Turkey remains under a state of emergency declared last July, following a failed coup that left almost 300 people dead". We will always support him.

Mr Erdogan would be given vastly enhanced powers to appoint cabinet ministers, issue decrees, choose senior judges and dissolve parliament.

The new constitutional system will get rid of the role of prime minister and transform the presidency from a largely ceremonial position into a vastly powerful post as both head of state and head of the government.

The Aegean and Mediterranean coastal regions and Kurdish-dominated southeast had backed the ´No´ camp but the ´Yes´ vote had held up strongly in Erdogan´s Anatolian heartland.

The poll is also taking place under a state of emergency that has seen 47,000 people arrested in an unprecedented crackdown after the failed putsch of July previous year.

Still, a widespread government crackdown has targeted followers of Gulen and other government opponents, branding them terrorists and a state of emergency has been imposed. Media outlets are stifled, hundreds of non-governmental organizations and news outlets have been shut down, as have many businesses, from schools to fertility clinics.

As prime minister, Erdogan garnered support from Turkey's Kurdish minority, which is estimated to make up about one-fifth of the country's population of 80 million people. The war in Syria led to some 3 million refugees crossing the border into Turkey.

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