ANKARA: Turkey’s prime minister declared victory for the ‘Yes’ camp in Sunday’s referendum on expanding the powers of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, saying the country had opened a “new page” in its democracy.
“The presidential system, according to unofficial results, has been confirmed with a ‘Yes’ vote,” Binali Yildirim told flag-waving supporters from the balcony of the headquarters of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Ankara.
“This is a decision made by the people. In our democracy’s history, a new page has opened with this vote.
“There are no losers in this referendum, the winner is Turkey, the winner is the dear people.”
Turkey’s two main opposition parties earlier said they would challenge the results.
The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party said it would challenge two-thirds of ballots cast.
In a remark apparently directed at those disappointed by the close result, Yildirim said “no one’s heart should be broken”.
The bitterly-fought campaign saw both sides throwing accusations at each other with Erdogan suggesting links between those voting ‘No’ and militants, terrorists as well as coup-plotters.
Meanwhile, the main opposition party leader suggested last summer’s failed coup was a “controlled” putsch.
“Now the time has come for solidarity, to be united, to be together, all of Turkey,” Yildirim added.
“In the squares, different things were said, different things were explained to the nation, but the last word was from the people: they said ‘Yes’, they put a full stop here.”
The ‘Yes’ campaign had won 51.3 percent of the vote while the ‘No’ campaign had mustered 48.7 percent, the election commission said in figures quoted by state news agency Anadolu, in a count based on 99 percent of the ballot boxes.
President Tayyip Erdogan celebrated what he said was a clear result in a referendum on Sunday to grant him sweeping new powers, but opponents said they would challenge the vote count which gave a narrow 51.3 percent lead to Erdogan’s supporters.
Nearly all ballots had been opened for counting, state-run Anadolu news agency said, although a lag between opening and counting them could see the lead tighten even further.
A “Yes” vote would replace Turkey’s parliamentary democracy with an all-powerful presidency and may see Erdogan in office until at least 2029, in the most radical change to the country’s political system in its modern history.
The outcome will also shape Turkey’s strained relations with the European Union. The NATO member state has curbed the flow of migrants – mainly refugees from wars in Syria and Iraq – into the bloc but Erdogan says he may review the deal after the vote.
The opposition People’s Republican Party (CHP) said it would demand a recount of up to 60 percent of the votes, protesting against a last-minute decision by the electoral board to accept unstamped ballots as valid votes.
“We will pursue a legal battle. If the irregularities are not fixed, there will be a serious legitimacy discussion,” CHP deputy chairman Bulent Tezcan said. Another of the party’s deputy chairmen said that “illegal acts” had been carried out in favor of the government.
The lira currency firmed to 3.65 to the dollar in Asian trade following the referendum, from 3.72 on Friday.