Crowds in Istanbul and other cities took to the streets against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and against the result of Sunday’s constitutional referendum in which voters narrowly approved expanding Erdogan’s executive powers.
Protesters banged pots and pans and demonstrated in and around Kadikoy and Besiktas, on both sides of the Bosphorus, some calling Erdogan a “thief” and a “murderer” while others called for his resignation.
Voters approved by 51 percent a sweeping reform package to the country’s presidency. The vote effectively changes Turkey from a parliamentary system to an executive presidency.
By 2019, Turkey’s president will have the power to rule by decree, instate state of emergencies and dissolve parliament. The president will personally be allowed to appoint senior judges, ministers, the vice-president and other high-level officials.
The vote was the largest reform in modern Turkish political history and opposition groups, fearful of Erdogan’s rising authoritarianism, are calling foul and allege irregularities in the result.
Following a failed coup in July 2016, Erdogan has led a crackdown throughout the country which has seen 47,000 people detained and at least 120,000 sacked from their jobs.
And, in what was a controversial move prior to the vote, Turkey’s electoral board said it would consider unstamped ballots as valid – a move some argue inflated votes in favour of Erdogan.
Turkey’s main political opposition group, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), said it will contest the result, demanding that millions of votes be recounted.
Turkey’s largest and relatively liberal urban areas including Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir as well as the country’s mostly Kurdish southeast, largely voted against reform the referendum.
In Kadikoy, a district of Istanbul on the city’s Asian side, crowds gathered in defiance.
And in Besiktas, on Istanbul’s European side, a crowd of several hundred demonstrators brought traffic to a standstill.
In Istanbul the demonstrations were largely peaceful. But in Izmir, however, a city on the country’s Aegean coast and known as a tourism destination, protesters reportedly scuffled with police.
And in Ankara, the nation’s capital, there were reports of clashes between Erdogan’s AK Party activists and opposition supporters near to the headquarters of the CHP.
In Istanbul as in Ankara, however, thousands came out in support of Erdogan and the referendum result.