Turks vote for constitutional reforms

TURKISH voters yesterday approved constitutional reforms that the government says will strengthen the Muslim nation’s democracy and help its candidacy for the European Union.

“The winner today was Turkish democracy,” Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan told followers as he declared victory in Istanbul.

The outcome is a huge boost for Erdogan before a parliamentary election due by July next year, when his AK Party will seek to win a mandate to form a single party government for a third term, a result that would be welcomed by investors.

According to an unofficial tally, the government won backing for its reforms with a “Yes” vote of 58%, NTV broadcaster reported, with 99% of ballot boxes counted. Other media outlets, including state-run Anatolia news agency, showed the “Yes” vote well ahead.

The High Election Board is to release the official result today.

Analysts saw the ruling AK Party drawing comfort from the margin of its victory, lessening chances of imprudent spending in the run up to the election.

“This strong vote of confidence means markets will gain more confidence in there being a one-party majority in next year’s election,” said Simon Quijano-Evans, an economist at Cheuvreux based in Vienna. “The bottom-line is to continue to look for strength in Turkish equities and foreign exchange.”

While most of the package was uncontentious, secular critics say that changes to the way senior judges are selected will reduce the independence of the judiciary and make it easier for the AK Party to push through legislation without fear of being blocked by the Constitutional Court.

Though the AK Party has pushed political and economic reforms and spearheaded Turkey’s drive for EU membership since coming to power in 2002, the secular establishment accuses it of harbouring Islamist ambitions.

The executive European Commission had backed Ankara’s attempt to overhaul the judiciary, but accused the government last week of stifling public debate over the reforms.

Erdogan says reform of a constitution written after a military coup in 1980 was needed to protect democracy and improve Turkey’s EU credentials. “The regime of tutelage is now part of history. The aims of those who support coups will not be achieved,” he said in his address. “Those who expect to benefit from . . . dark places will be disappointed.”

He said his party will now start work on a new constitution.


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