Turkey's Erdogan to take control with 51% votes in power referendum

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan narrowly won a constitutional referendum, winning over 51 per cent of the votes cast even as thousands of protesters took to the street.s in a rally against the referendum result that gave President Erdogan sweeping new powers.

Protesters banged pots and pans as a symbol of defiance against the result, while others held yellow banners in the air as they shouted 'Thief, murderer, Erdogan'.

The result of Sunday's referendum heralds a shift to presidential system of government from parliamentary system and could mean Erdogan will remain in power until 2029 with sweeping powers.

The referendum that gave Erdogan a narrow lead heralded the most radical change in the country's political history since Kamal Ataturk, but has bitterly divided the nation.

Erdogan and his supporters say the powers 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.

A package of 18 amendments would abolish the office of prime minister and give the president the authority to draft the budget, declare a state of emergency and issue decrees overseeing ministries without parliamentary approval.

Critics and the main opposition party, Republican People's Party, however, say the constitutional amendments would give too much power to one individual and that it would undermine the separation of powers in the government.

They 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.

Agency reports had shown a narrowing of `Yes' votes after naysayers took lead in the country's three biggest cities - Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir - as voting progressed.

Although the votes favouring the constitutional changes had registered 63 per cent support after a quarter of the ballots had been tallied, the lead got narrowed in the final stages of an increasingly tight count.

The main opposition party says it will challenge 37 per cent of the ballot boxes counted in Turkey's referendum that supported an increase in the president's powers. The pro-Kurdish opposition party also said that it plans to object to two-thirds of the ballots.

''Since this morning, we have determined some 2.5 million problematic votes,'' Republic People's Party deputy chairman Erdal Aksunger said late on Sunday.

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

The referendum has also increased Turkey's rift with Europe when EU countries, including Germany and the Netherlands, barred Turkish ministers from holding rallies in support of the changes. Turkey could now reconsider ties with the European Union after many years of seeking EU membership.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said, "Whatever the outcome, we will give it the highest respect. Our nation's decision is the finest decision."

Kurdish militants overnight killed a guard in an attack on a vehicle carrying a district official from Yildirim's ruling AK Party in southeast Turkey's Van province, security sources said.

The secular main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) say Erdogan and the AK Party enjoyed a disproportionate share of media coverage in the buildup to the vote.

CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu has accused Erdogan of seeking a "one-man regime", and said the proposed changes would put the country in danger. "This is not about right or left... this is a national issue... We will make our choices with our children and future in mind," he said during his final rally in the capital Ankara.

Proponents of the reform argue that it would end the current "two-headed system" in which both the president and parliament are directly elected, a situation they argue could lead to deadlock. Until 2014, presidents were chosen by parliament.

The government says Turkey, faced with conflict to the south in Syria and Iraq, and a security threat from Islamic State and PKK militants, needs strong and clear leadership to combat terrorism.