Sun Apr 16, 2017 4:58PM
Electoral staff members count votes after polls close in Turkey's tightly-contested referendum on expanding the powers of the president on April 16, 2017 in Istanbul. (Photo by AFP)
Electoral staff members count votes after polls close in Turkey's tightly-contested referendum on expanding the powers of the president on April 16, 2017 in Istanbul. (Photo by AFP)

The 'Yes' vote on constitutional referendum aimed at increasing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s executive powers and changing the country's political structure into a presidential one is leading in a tight race that will determine the country's future.

The 'Yes' campaign has won 51.20 percent of the votes during Sunday’s referendum, while the 'No' campaign mustered 48.80 percent, Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency reported in a count based on 99.99 percent of the ballots.

The result could still change as ballot boxes in the western part of the country are being counted following the closing of polls at 1400 GMT.

Turkish-language nationwide news channel, Haberturk, has put the turnout at 86 percent.

Anadolu also reported that ‘No’ votes are at just over 50 percent in the country’s largest city of Istanbul, with 88 percent of ballots opened.

The Turkish parliament approved the 18-article constitutional change, which was submitted last December, in late January. A total of 339 legislators voted in favor of the move. The number of the parliamentarians who voted against the bill was 142.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) passed the bill with the support of most MPs from the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). On February 10, Erdogan approved the bill.

An electoral staff member shows a ballot during the counting process after polls closed in Turkey's tightly-contested referendum on expanding the powers of the president on April 16, 2017 in Diyarbakir, Turkey. (Photo by AFP)

The proposed constitutional changes have been met with widespread protests across the country, with critics claiming that the AKP is using last year’s failed coup to expand Erdogan’s authority and crack down on opposition.

Turkish officials say over 240 people were killed and more than 2,100 others injured following the botched July 15, 2016 putsch.

Tens of thousands of people, including military personnel, judges and teachers, have been suspended, dismissed or detained as part of the post-coup crackdown.

According to a survey conducted by the official Anadolu news agency, a total of 40,832 suspects have been arrested since the coup attempt.

A total of 2,279 administrative and judicial judges, 104 members of the Appeals Court, 41 members of the Council of State, two members of the Supreme Court, and three members of the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors have been arrested as part of the ongoing investigations.

Additionally, 168 army generals, 7,596 Security Directorate police officers, 17 governors, 74 deputy governors, and 69 district governors under the Interior Ministry have been detained.

Turkey’s main opposition questions vote legitimacy

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) has cast legitimacy doubts on Sunday's referendum following a last-minute decision by the electoral board to accept unstamped ballots as valid.

“The High Electoral Board has failed by allowing fraud in the referendum,” CHP deputy chairman, Bulent Tezcan, told reporters at the party's headquarters in capital, Ankara.

Bulent Tezcan, the deputy chairman of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP)

Erdal Aksunger, another CHP co-chairman, also argued that illegal acts are being carried out in favor of the government.

“Many illegal acts are being carried out in favor of the government right now, but 'No' will win in the end,” he said.

The remarks came as the High Electoral Board (YSK) announced in a statement on its website that it would count ballots, which had not been stamped by its officials as valid unless they proved to be fraudulent.

The YSK cited a high number of complaints that its officials had failed to stamp ballots at polling stations.