Crowds go gaga in Turkey after historic referendum

Celebrations and disappointment mark Sunday's referendum after millions of voters thronged to polling booths across Turkey to vote for or against the parliamentary system in Turkey.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

People of all ages came in cars adorned with flags and Erdogan posters.

Updated Apr 17, 2017

Jubilant crowds waving Turkish flags and tossing firecrackers, and disappointed Turks beating pots and pans in several neighbourhoods marked Sunday's nail-biting referendum that ushers Turkey into a presidential system of government.

The early prediction of victory for the "yes" camp on the rainy evening in Istanbul disappointed the voters of the "no" camp who cast their ballots throughout the day in a neck-and-neck competition across Turkey.

TRT World's Hasan Abdullah reports from the Turkish capital, Ankara.

Over 55 million were eligible to vote "yes" or "no" on whether to accept 18 amendments to the constitution put forward by the parliament that also gives more powers to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of the governing AK Party.

A group of Lebanese tourists who joined jubilant crowds in the Fatih neighbourhood described the mood as "exciting."

"We feel great. We are excited to see Erdogan winning …  because he supports many countries against the bad regimes... Evet Evet (Yes, Yes)," they chanted before disappearing into the swarm of elated crowds.

Thousands of supporters defied rain to pour onto Istanbul streets as President Erdogan made a celebratory speech seen on giant screens tucked across the city.

"The referendum is a victory for everyone who voted, whether it was 'Yes' or 'No',” he said, as the crowds chanted victory slogans.

In Kisikli, thousands of "yes" voters gathered in front of Erdogan's house with may of them chanting "we trust Erdogan."

There were kids, young people, and older folk, too, who came in cars decorated with flags and Erdogan posters – or on foot, brandishing flags and singing with joy. Many wore red bandanas and red scarves in a show of support for a democratic transition in a historic referendum. 

In the capital Ankara, convoys of cars honking horns in celebration, their passengers waving flags from the windows, clogged a main avenue in the city as they headed towards the AK Party's headquarters to celebrate. A chant of "Erdogan, Erdogan" rang out from loudspeakers and campaign buses.

Many Turkish expatriates who voted in Germany had come to Turkey to witness the celebrations. 

One family in an Istanbul neighbourhood said they are happy that the result is "yes" and would have "respected" the "no" choice as well.

In another Istanbul neighbourhood, a "yes" voter expressed full support for Erdogan. "Yes, yes, yes. Our leader is the gift of God to us. We will always support him. He's governing so well," Mualla Sengul said.

"I am proud that I cast my "yes" vote at the location where energy minister polled as well. My vote secures the future of my family," said Mehmet Kaya.

  
Mehmet Kaya in the Uskudar neighbourhood with Turkish Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Berat Albayrak.

There were also reports of "no" supporters demonstrating in various Istanbul neighbourhoods claiming fraud during the voting process.

"I voted 'No' because I don't want this whole country and its legislative, executive and judiciary ruled by one man. This would not make Turkey stronger or better as they claim. This would weaken our democracy," said Hamit Yaz, 34, a ship's captain, after voting in Istanbul.

But as the result was announced, disappointment marred the "no" camp. 

The opposition People's Republican Party (CHP) said it would demand a recount of up to 60 percent of the votes, protesting against a last-minute decision by the electoral board to accept unstamped ballots as valid votes.

"We will pursue a legal battle. If the irregularities are not fixed, there will be a serious legitimacy discussion," the CHP's deputy chairman, Bulent Tezcan, said. 

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Source: 
TRTWorld and agencies