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Turkey voters approve referendum to increase presidential powers

[JURIST] Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan [official profile], announced a victory on Sunday after 51.5 percent of Turkish voters elected to expand presidential powers. However, his political opponents are demanding [Reuters report] a recount as some of the ballots did not contain an official stamp. The changes, which will not come into effect until 2019, would abolish the position of prime minister and give the president powers formerly granted to Parliament. Those who voted "yes" point to security concerns, while those who voted "no" fear authoritarianism. Erdogan said [NYT report], "We are enacting the most important governmental reform of our history." The Turkish Parliment approved [JURIST report] the plan in January before the popular vote.

Since the failed coup in Turkey in July, where Turkish military forces tried to overthrow the government, the Turkish government has taken several controversial steps to strengthen its power. In March the UN reported [JURIST report] human rights violations in Southern Turkey. Earlier in March around 330 individuals were put on trial[JURIST report] for alleged involvement in the attempted coup. In November Turkey significantly restricted the activities of NGOs like human rights organizations and children's groups and arrested opposition party leaders [JURIST report] alleging they were connected to terror organizations. In October Human Rights Watch warned [JURIST report] that the emergency decrees put in place after the failed coup, had resulted in serious human rights violations.

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