Erdogan wins amid claims of polling fraud

TURKISH President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has claimed victory in a referendum granting him sweeping new powers, hailing the result as an "historic decision”.

The leader called on the international community to respect the result and discouraged his critics from "belittling” the outcome, saying they "shouldn't try, it will be in vain”.

The state-run Anadolu news agency claimed that 51% of voters had sided with the "Yes” campaign, ushering in the most radical change to the country's political system in modern times.

But the main opposition, the Republican People's Party, said it would demand a recount of up to 40% of the vote, saying "illegal acts” had occurred during the vote and that there were up to 2.5 million "problematic ballots”.

The pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party also claimed to have information that voter fraud was implicated in up to 4%. Both parties said they would appeal the results.

The Supreme Election Commission said it would make the unprecedented decision to count ballots that had not been stamped by its officials as valid unless they could be proved fraudulent, citing a high number of complaints that its officials at polling stations had failed to stamp them.

Mr Erdogan was said to have told Prime Minister Binali Yildirim that the results were "clear”, according to presidential sources.

As Mr Erdogan's supporters celebrated on the streets of Istanbul with fireworks, the Republican People's Party said "illegal acts” were carried out in favour of the government in the referendum.

Referring to the decision to count ballots without validation stamps, party chairman Kemal Kilicdaroglu said: "You cannot change the rules of the game in the middle of the game,” adding that the board had "cast a shadow on the results”.

Official results were expected in 11-12 days.

The vote introduces a raft of constitutional changes that mean Turkey's parliamentary democracy can be replaced with an executive presidency. Mr Erdogan said Turks could expect the process to be complete by November 2019.

The referendum result also allows him to re-take control of the ruling Justice and Development party, which he helped to found.

Mr Erdogan spent 11 years as Turkey's Prime Minister before becoming the country's first directly elected president - a supposedly ceremonial role - in August 2014. - Harriet Agerholm and Chris Stevenson, The Independent

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