Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday Turkey had passed a historic threshold by voting in favor of constitutional reforms and said the result was a defeat for supporters of military coups.
An unofficial, preliminary count showed 58 percent of Turkish voters approved a raft of government-backed constitutional amendments in a referendum on Sunday with 99 percent of ballot boxes counted, according to private NTV television channel. The charter was drafted after a military coup in 1980.
Critics say the reforms will undermine the judiciary and pose a threat to the Muslim nation's secularism.
The referendum marks a huge boost for Prime Minister Erdogan, whose AK Party will seek to win a third term as a single party government at a general election due by July next year.
"It's better than expected, and it's a good endorsement ahead of next year's elections," Semih Idiz, a columnist with Milliyet newspaper," said earlier.
Erdogan looks on as his wife casts vote Sunday (Photo: Reuters)
Though the AK Party has pushed political and economic reforms and spearheaded Turkey's drive for membership of the European Union since coming to power in 2002, the secular establishment accuses it of harboring Islamist ambitions.
The secularist opposition does not dispute that some changes are necessary. But it says the proposals would also open the way for the AK party to take over the courts after building up a strong power base within the state during eight years in office.
With the military's once-formidable power clipped by EU-driven reforms, the high courts have become the last redoubt of a conservative secularist establishment.
The package includes 26 articles. Most are seen as progressive and uncontroversial, including one that would make the military more answerable to civilian courts.
But opponents say proposed changes to the make-up of the Constitutional Court and the High Board of Judges and Prosecutors, a state body charged with appointing magistrates, raise concerns over the future independence of the judiciary.
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