On Sunday, citizens of Turkey took to the polls and voted on whether their president should acquire sweeping new executive powers. On the ballot: a simple yes or no question.
This comes just 9 months after a failed military coup rocked the nation, many believe that a more powerful executive branch is essential to fight the growing instability in the region.
A ‘yes’ vote would have handed the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the authority of the Legislative and Judicial branches of government. This, the president argued, would modernise and reform the country’s volatile political system. He also insisted it was necessary to combat a growing threat from the Islamic State.
A ‘no’ vote would have kept the country’s bitter political system intact, while denying the president any additional power grabs. Many have argued the importance of separate Turkish branches of government, so as not to consolidate dictator-like forces.
Many citizens were not shy sharing their opinions of the referendum, and on Erdogan as a president.
Soner Cagaptay, a Washington-based Turkey scholar and author of a new book on Erdogan’s rise. “If he wins the referendum, Mr. Erdogan will try to force the country to fold under his powerful persona, becoming completely authoritarian.”
Many others, including a farmer-turned scientist named Abdullah, showed their support for the referendum, saying; “I’m the son of farmers and now I’m becoming a scientist day by day. Do you think the AKP is a horrible party?”
Polling stations opened at 8 a.m. for Eastern Turkey and 9 a.m. for the whole country.
During the day of the election, violence was reported across the nation as citizens went to the polls. Several incidents occurred in the southeast Turkey’s Van province, when a polling station was attacked by Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants.
Surprisingly, it was reported that thousands of prisoners could cast their votes as well all across the country, which was very uncommon.
By 10 pm. all polling stations closed and results started pouring in.
While some opinion polls gave the ‘yes’ campaign a slight lead, others showed a much tighter race into the night.
As the results stand, it appears as though President Erdogan’s ‘yes’ campaign is victorious with a turnout rate of 86%.