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Erdogan declares referendum victory as opposition cries foul

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Istanbul: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared victory today in a historic referendum that will tighten his grip on power, but the knife-edge result left the country bitterly divided, with the opposition crying foul.

Opponents fear the sweeping constitutional changes, which would grant Erdogan more power than any leader since modern Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and his successor Ismet Inonu, would lead the country to one-man rule.

The result could also have even wider implications for Turkey which joined NATO in 1952 and for the last half-century has set its sights on joining the European Union.

The 'Yes' campaign won 51.3 percent of the vote against 48.7 percent for 'No', the election commission said in figures quoted by state news agency Anadolu, in a count based on 99 percent of the ballot boxes. As huge crowds of flag-waving supporters celebrated, Erdogan praised Turkey for taking a "historic decision".

"With the people, we have realised the most important reform in our history," he added.

The referendum was held under a state of emergency that has seen 47,000 people arrested in an unprecedented crackdown after the failed military putsch against Erdogan in July last year.

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