Turkey votes "Yes" on constitutional changes with 97 pct of ballots opened

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

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

Erdogan called nationalist allies on Sunday night to congratulate them for the result as vote-counting was continuing, but almost completed, the Associated Press reported.

Erdogan supporters gathered outside the governing AK Party headquarters in Istanbul and Ankara to celebrate, with the crowd in Istanbul sending fireworks into the night sky.

With 97 percent of votes counted Sunday, 51.4 percent backed the constitutional changes.

The opposition criticized the decision of the country's elections board to accept as valid ballot papers that don't have its official stamp. "There is a clear clause in electoral law saying unstamped ballots will be invalid and the High Electoral Board issued its notice in compliance with this law", CHP deputy chairman Bulent Tezcan said.

55 million Turks of legal voting age are expected to determine by this evening whether or not Erdogan will be the leader with the most expansive power in modern Turkish history.

On Sunday, voters decided whether to approve sweeping constitutional changes that will change the country's system of government from parliamentary to presidential, and grant Erdogan even more authority.

Erdogan has promised the new presidential system will herald a period of stability and prosperity for Turkey, a country that has suffered several coups in the past few decades. They also made it clear that they were exhausted of ideological advocates of modern Turkey's founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who set up what many perceive to be an anti-conservative state that suppressed and repressed any religious expression from mostly Muslim Turks.If Erdogan wins the 2019 vote as is expected, the first of a possible of two five-year terms will begin, and his rule as an executive president could last until 2029.

"The Brexit vote is pushing Britain into the sidelines, the presidential election of (U.S. President Donald) Trump is taking the United States of America on an adventure, the Erdogan referendum is leading Turkey into absolutism and the 1933 German parliamentary election led Germany into the abyss", he said.

Erdogan said he hopes the referendum results would benefit Turkey, and that the nation made a "historic decision", in an address after Yildirim's declaration.

The new powers the president would be given under the referendum included the ability to appoint officials himself.

Turkish ballots are stamped before they are handed to voters who take them into the voting booth to make their choice.

"We are here early to say "no" for our country, for our children and grandchildren", said retired tax officer Murtaza Ali Turgut.

Erdogan's vote Mr Erdogan voted in the Üsküdar district of Istanbul with his wife Emine shortly before midday, pausing briefly for cameras and chatting with supporters who chanted supportive slogans.

"A one-man system is being established, so I said "No".

Kilicdaroglu has accused Erdogan of seeking a "one-man regime", and said the proposed changes would put the country in danger.

In another Istanbul neighborhood, a "yes" voter expressed full support of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"Yes, yes, yes! Our leader is the gift of God to us", said Mualla Sengul. We will always support him. It will also theoretically allow Mr Erdoğan, who has dominated Turkish politics as president and prime minister since 2003, to stay in office until 2029. The changes would come into effect with the next general election, scheduled for 2019.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared victory in a referendum to increase his powers as opposition parties contested the result. Supporters of the "no" vote have complained of intimidation, including beatings, detentions and threats.

"I cast my "Yes" vote as conservative Muslim against infidels who are threatening Turkey".

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