Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed victory on Sunday in a referendum on a proposal to massively expand his power, while dismissing the objections of opposition parties who challenged the outcome of the vote.
Erdogan’s victory sets in motion a transformation of Turkish politics, replacing the current parliamentary system with one dominated by a powerful presidency. According to preliminary results, a small majority of Turkish voters approved the set of 18 constitutional amendments that limits parliament’s oversight of the executive, eliminates the office of the Prime Minister, and expands presidential power over judicial appointments. Erdogan and his supporters say the constitutional changes are needed to ensure stability, while opponents denounced the amendments as a step toward an era of autocracy.
The narrow, disputed outcome of the vote also sets the stage for a bitter struggle over the validity of the referendum results. According to Turkey’s state news agency, the yes vote won by a margin of 51.2% to 48.8%. However, two opposition parties said they would challenge the result, citing violations in the vote-counting procedure. The campaign also took place in the wake of a vast political crackdown in Turkey following a failed military coup last July. The questions about the referendum’s results now promise to sow even more division in a country already deeply polarized over the figure of Erdogan and the merits of his proposed presidential system.
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