Merkel urges 'respectful dialogue' in Turkey after referendum

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This led to a protest by the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), which said it would contest the count and complain about other violations during the vote. "This is why the only decision that will end debate about the legitimacy (of the vote) and ease the people's legal concerns is the annulment of this election by the YSK", Tezcan told a news conference.

A statement on the High Electoral Board's website hours before polls closed said it would count ballots that had not been stamped by officials as valid unless they could be proved fraudulent.

The pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples' Democratic Party said it presented complaints about unstamped ballots affecting 3 million voters, more than twice the margin of Erdogan's victory.

Unabashed, Erdogan dismissed all queries about the result, and said he would now proceed with his priority - restoring the death penalty in Turkey. "For the benefit to my country", one voter said.

Ankara - Turks voted on Sunday in favor of the constitutional amendments proposed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan - these amendments would change the country's regime from a parliamentary to a presidential one.

The state-run Anadolu Agency said the "yes" vote stood at 51.41 percent, while the "no" vote was 48.59 percent. The electoral board has declared a victory for the former but the country's two main opposition parties are challenging the results, demanding a recount of 60% of the votes.

The outcome is expected to have a huge effect on Turkey's long-term political future and its worldwide relations. "In our democracy's history, a new page has opened", said Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, whose job will disappear under the constitutional changes.

Erdogan, who first came to power in 2003 as prime minister, had argued a "Turkish-style" presidential system would bring stability and prosperity to a country rattled by a failed coup previous year that left more than 200 people dead, and a series of devastating attacks by the Islamic State group and Kurdish militants.

"We can't just go back to the daily routine after the Turkey referendum".

The Turkish referendum on presidential powers took place on an "unlevel playing field" and in a political environment where "fundamental freedoms" were curtailed, European observers of the campaign and voting day have said.

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But he quickly reverted to a more abrasive style when addressing thousands of flag-waving supporters in Istanbul.

"There are those who are belittling the result".

But Turkish ministers and Erdogan have said they need to respond to popular demand for the restoration of capital punishment to deal with the ringleaders of the July 15 coup bid. "That is why it is very significant", Erdogan added. Hundreds also took to the streets in the areas of Besiktas and Kadikoy. Those two nations barred Turkish ministers from holding referendum campaign rallies within their borders, where millions of Turkish voters live. "This amounts to ... allowing fraud in this vote".

But Ismail Ozkanli, a pharmacist from the northwestern city of Rize, said he voted "yes" in the referendum because he wants a stable and stronger Turkey against the pressures of the West and other "dark circles" that want to divide the country. "We expect countries that we accept as our allies to show more sensitivity to our fight against terrorism", he said.

Opponents had argued the constitutional changes give too much power to a man who they say has shown increasingly autocratic tendencies.

Initial reaction from overseas was cautious.

"The German government expects that the Turkish government will now seek respectful dialogue with all political and social forces in the country, after this tough election campaign", Merkel said on Monday.

Some 55 million people were eligible to vote on Sunday and results are expected to start coming in within hours.

The ballots themselves did not include the referendum question - it was assumed to be understood.

The new system would dispense with the office of prime minister and centralise the entire executive bureaucracy under the president, giving Erdogan the direct power to appoint ministers.

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