Opposition to challenge votes on expanding Erdogan's powers

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters during a rally for the upcoming referendum in Istanbul

Of some 48.9 million valid votes cast (a turnout of around 85 percent), the difference between the camps was about 1.37 million votes, the state news agency Anadolu reported.

The new executive presidency is expected to come into effect following the next presidential election in 2019, and will give Mr Erdogan sweeping powers to appoint ministers, dissolve parliament and enact a state of emergency.

In a major disappointment for the president, the "No" vote was just ahead in his hometown of Istanbul and in the capital Ankara and clearly ahead in the third city of Izmir.

Now the president must be impartial and without party favour, although opponents have accused Erdogan of blatantly flouting this rule.

But he quickly reverted to a more abrasive style when addressing thousands of flag-waving supporters in Istanbul. I'm sure you've been watching it all night.

But electoral board head Sadi Guven defended the decision.

PATRICK KINGSLEY, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, exactly.

A significant number of supporter's of Erdogan's own party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), voted against the constitutional changes, signaling distrust with a the expansion of the power of a President who already has unrivaled control. "At least half the country said no to constitutional change".

KINGSLEY: They're claiming that that there had been ballot stuffing.

In a nail-biting end to a frenetic campaign, the "No" share of the vote climbed as more ballots were counted, after lagging well behind in the early count, but failed to overtake the "Yes" votes.

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The opposition has called for a partial recount of about 37% of the votes, according to Erdal Aksunger of the CHP.

SREENIVASAN: How strong is the possibility that the opposition can mount enough of a challenge to take over the rule of president in a couple of years?

KINGSLEY: It feels very unlikely at the moment.

But Ismail Ozkanli, a pharmacist from the northwestern city of Rize, said he voted "yes" in the referendum because he wants a stable and stronger Turkey against the pressures of the West and other "dark circles" that want to divide the country. Opposition parties claim a win for the Yes side was called before all ballots had been counted.

Erdogan's victory sets in motion a transformation of Turkish politics, replacing the current parliamentary system with one dominated by a powerful presidency. "However, it seems equally true that the change which is voted in today doesn't seem to offer a remedy for such polarization, and there are fears that it in fact could deepen the political and social divide that Turkey has been suffering from". Supporters of the "Yes" result argue the changes are justified given the "existential threat" on the country's southern borders with Iraq and Syria, along with last summer's attempted coup, he added.

"While a potential "Yes" may be cheered by the market in the near term, Turkish equities are not likely to trade above historical averages as growth remains subdued and the long term implications of the system untested", said economists at BGC Partners in Istanbul.

But the Cumhuriyet opposition daily focused on the alleged violations: "A shadow fell over the ballot boxes", it said.

The country's pro-Kurdish party said it may take the case to the European Court of Human Rights if the electoral board does not reverse his decision and nullify the ballots lacking the official stamps.

Meanwhile, Turkey's relations with Europe have been increasingly tense, particularly after Erdogan branded Germany and the Netherlands as Nazis for not allowing Turkish ministers to campaign for the "yes" vote among expatriate Turks.

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.

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