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Turkey: 'Yes' vote leads with 63% after quarter of votes counted

Turkey: Yes vote leads with 63% after quarter of votes counted
Early counting in Turkey's referendum registered 63 percent support for a "Yes" vote to give sweeping new powers to President Tayyip Erdogan, broadcaster NTV said on Sunday, adding that around a quarter of the ballots had been tallied.

Ahead of Sunday's vote, opinion polls had shown a narrow lead for a "Yes" vote, which would replace Turkey's parliamentary democracy with an all-powerful presidency and may see Erdogan in office until at least 2029.

The outcome will shape Turkey's strained relations with the European Union. The NATO member state has curbed the flow of migrants – mainly refugees from wars in Syria and Iraq – into the bloc but Erdogan says he may review the deal after the vote.

A crowd chanted "Recep Tayyip Erdogan" and applauded as the president shook hands and greeted people after voting in a school near his home in Istanbul. His staff handed out toys for children in the crowd.

"God willing I believe our people will decide to open the path to much more rapid development," Erdogan said in the polling station after casting his vote. "I believe in my people's democratic common sense." Some 55 million people were eligible to vote at 167,140 polling stations. Turkish voters abroad have already cast their ballots.

The referendum has bitterly divided the nation. Erdogan and his supporters say the changes are needed to amend the current constitution, written by generals following a 1980 military coup, confront the security and political challenges Turkey faces, and avoid the fragile coalition governments of the past. "This is our opportunity to take back control of our country," said self-employed Bayram Seker, 42, after voting "Yes" in Istanbul.

"I don't think one-man rule is such a scary thing. Turkey has been ruled in the past by one man," he said, referring to modern Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Opponents say it is a step towards greater authoritarianism in a country where some 47,000 people have been jailed pending trial and 120,000 sacked or suspended from their jobs in a crackdown following a failed coup last July, drawing criticism from Turkey's Western allies and
rights groups.
Agencies

Agencies

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