Turkey: Prime minister orders opposition to respect referendum result, as thousands take to streets

Turkey's prime minister Binali Yildirim called on the opposition to respect the result of a referendum that will give sweeping new powers to the office of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Tuesday (18 April).

Yildirim made the call during an address to legislators from his ruling party, as the country's main opposition prepared to apply to the country's highest electoral board to seek an annulation of Sunday's (16 April) vote, giving President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's "yes" campaign a narrow win, with preliminary results showing at 51.4 per cent in his favour.

18 April 2017: Turkey's Prime Minister Binali Yildirim addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in AnkaraUmit Bektas/Reuters
18 April 2017: Turkey's Prime Minister Binali Yildirim greets members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) as he arrives for a meeting at the Turkish parliament in AnkaraUmit Bektas/Reuters

The Republican People's Party, or CHP, called for the vote to be annulled citing a series of irregularities, particularly an electoral board decision to accept ballots that didn't bear official stamps, as required by Turkish law. Monitors from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, who also listed numerous irregularities, said the move undermined important election safeguards, drawing a harsh rebuke from Erdogan.

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18 April 2017: Turkey's main opposition leader, the Republican People's Party (CHP) Kemal Kilicdaroglu, arrives at a meeting at the Turkish parliament in AnkaraUmit Bektas/Reuters

"Efforts to cast a shadow on the result of the vote by spreading rumours of fraud are futile and in vain," Yildirim said. "The will of the people was freely reflected into the ballot boxes and this business is over. Everyone and all sections – and the main opposition party in particular – must show respect. It is wrong to speak after the people have spoken."

The vote allows Erdogan, who has ruled Turkey first as prime minister and now as president since 2003, to fulfill his long-held ambition for a presidency with executive powers.

17 April 2017: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters at the Presidential Palace in AnkaraUmit Bektas/Reuters
17 April 2017: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters at the Presidential Palace in AnkaraUmit Bektas/Reuters

The referendum approves 18 constitutional amendments that allow the president to appoint ministers, senior government officials and to hold sway over who sits in Turkey's highest judicial body, as well as to issue decrees and declare states of emergency. The new system takes effect at the next election, currently slated for November 2019. Other changes are to be implemented sooner, including scrapping a requirement that the president not be a member of any political party. This would allow Erdogan to rejoin the governing AK Party he co-founded, or to lead it. Yildirim said on Tuesday that Erdogan would be invited to join the party as soon as the official results are declared. "We will invite our founding chairman to our party and we will feel a huge elation to see him among us," he told the Associated Press.

17 April 2017: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan is greeted by his supporters as he leaves Esenboga Airport in a bus in AnkaraYasin Bulbul/Reuters
17 April 2017: A woman shows her hand, which reads "Tayyip Erdogan", as she waits for the arrival of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan at Esenboga Airport in Ankara, TurkeyReuters
17 April 2017: Supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan wave national flags as they wait for his arrival at the Presidential Palace in AnkaraUmit Bektas/Reuters

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Istanbul on Monday (17 April) to denounce the referendum results. People marched in the Besiktas neighbourhood with some chanting "It's not over" and "The struggle will continue". The result of the referendum has laid bare the deep divide between the urban middle classes, who see their future as part of a European mainstream, and the pious rural poor who favour Erdogan's strong hand.

17 April 2017: Supporters of the 'No' vote hold leaflets reading 'no' as they gather at the Kadikoy district in Istanbul to protest following the results in a nationwide referendum that will determine Turkey's future destinyBulent Kilic/AFP
16 April 2017: 'No' supporters gather in Istanbul to protest after the results of a nationwide referendum that will determine Turkey's future destinyYasin Akgul/AFP
17 April 2017: Supporters of the 'No' vote hold leaflets reading 'no' as they gesture and shout while they gather at the Besiktas district in Istanbul to protest following the results in a nationwide referendum that will determine Turkey's future destinyOzan Kose/AFP
17 April 2017: Anti-government protesters hold placards during a demonstration at the Besiktas district in IstanbulAlkis Konstantinidis/Reuters
17 April 2017: People stand at their windows, some of them hitting pots and pans, during an anti-government demonstration at the Besiktas district in IstanbulAlkis Konstantinidis/Reuters
17 April 2017: Anti-government protesters shout slogans during a demonstration at the Besiktas district in IstanbulAlkis Konstantinidis/Reuters
17 April 2017: A dog stands among 'No' supporters as they gather at the Kadikoy district in IstanbulBulent Kilic/AFP
17 April 2017: Anti-government protesters shout slogans during a demonstration at the Besiktas district in IstanbulAlkis Konstantinidis/Reuters
17 April 2017: An anti-government protester shouts slogans during a demonstration at the Besiktas district in IstanbulHuseyin Aldemir/Reuters

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