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Thousands In Turkey Protest Against Giving Erdogan Greater Powers

  • RFE/RL

Protesters in Istanbul chant "no" to a referendum giving Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expanded powers

Thousands of people took to the streets of Istanbul and other Turkish cities to protest the results of a referendum that narrowly granted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan greater powers.

At least 1,000 protesters thronged Besiktas on the European side of Istanbul late on April 17, while on the Asian side, around 2,000 demonstrators marched through Kadikoy, another secular, anti-Erdogan neighborhood.

Smaller protests were held in Ankara, Izmir, and other Turkish cities. Turkish media reported that 13 people were detained in a protest in the Mediterranean city of Antalya.

The protesters expressed anger about last-minute changes to the referendum voting procedures and an electoral board decision to allow as valid more than a million ballots cast without the official stamp.

Those irregularities were also singled out for criticism by European voting monitors and the U.S. State Department, though Turkish authorities insisted the referendum was conducted cleanly.

Hayir Besiktas, the group that called for the demonstration, said "We are against fraud, injustice, and stolen votes."

The main opposition Republican People's Party and the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party said they would challenge the results, with the Kurdish party saying it has complaints about unstamped ballots affecting 3 million voters -- more than twice the margin of Erdogan's victory. The April 16 referendum passed by 51.4 percent.

"Thief, murderer, Erdogan," the protesters in Kadikoy chanted, as they marched towards the offices of the Supreme Election Board. "We will not make you president" and "We are shoulder to shoulder against fascism."

Protesters carried signs saying "The 'No' is not finished" and "'No' has won."

In homes lining the route of the protest, people bashed pots and pans with kitchen utensils from the windows of their apartments to show solidarity.

Police generally kept a low profile on the sidelines of the protest, but warned against using offensive slogans.

Erdogan in a speech at the presidential palace in Ankara mocked the protesters' banging on pots and pans, and said most people were satisfied with the referendum results.

The protests came as Turkey's Council of Ministers moved to extend for another three months a state of emergency declared in the wake of a failed July 2016 coup.

Government spokesman Numan Kurtulmus said the extension would go into effect on April 19, when the previous state of emergency is scheduled to expire.

The extension first must go to parliament, however, for approval. The state of emergency grants greater powers to security forces to detain people perceived to be working against the government, including journalists, judges, and academics.

Erdogan has used the state of emergency to crack down on supporters of U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom he accuses of orchestrating the July 15 coup attempt. Gulen denies any involvement.

With reporting by AP, AFP, dpa, and Reuters
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