Turkish referendum passes with thin margin

With a pinch of salt: Turkish celebrity chef Nusret Gökçe performs his signature cooking move as he casts his vote in Sunday’s historic referendum.
Updated 17 April 2017

Turkish referendum passes with thin margin

ANKARA: Turkish citizens gave President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sweeping new powers in a historic referendum on Sunday, transforming Turkey’s political system from parliamentary to presidential and restructuring its executive, legislative and judicial branches.
“Yes” votes led the referendum in a narrow and controversial victory, with a high turnout reaching 86 percent.
According to the official state news agency Anadolu, the “yes” vote received about 51.3 percent of the vote. Surprisingly, Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir — the country’s three major cities — voted “no.”
Speaking to the party supporters in Antalya, Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu likened the referendum result to the birth of a “new Turkey” where “there will be stability and trust.”
Erdogan also thanked the “yes”- voters supporting political party leaders and the voters on the referendum victory.
He also said he will approve the reinstatement of the death penalty if lawmakers submit a bill, or if Turkey holds a referendum to bring it back.
Delivering a speech at the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) headquarters in Ankara after the referendum results, Turkey’s prime minister thanked all voters.
“Turkish nation gave the final word by saying ‘yes.’ ‘No’ voters are of same value as ‘yes’ voters. There are no losers in the referendum, the entire nation won from it,” Binali Yildirim said.
Erdogan also spoke in Istanbul after the referendum victory and called on the international community to respect the result of the referendum in which 25 million people voted ‘yes,’ leading by 1 million votes the ‘no’ votes.
“(The) new system will enter into force with elections to be held in 2019,” Erdogan said. “It is easy to preserve the status quo, but defending the change is the challenging one and we achieved it.”
While the proposed changes are fully endorsed by the AKP and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party have opposed the changes, claiming that the result would be a one-man rule with no separation of powers or a checks-and-balances system.
According to the referendum, the post of prime minister will be abolished and the president will be the sole head of the executive branch. He will decide on the number of vice-presidents and ministers and appoint them without the need for parliamentary approval.
The president will also play a legislative role through presidential decrees and exercise a veto power over the decisions of the parliament except for those backed by a two-thirds majority, which is not common in democratic parliaments.
The referendum process has also been widely criticized mainly because it is taking place when the country is under emergency rule, with basic rights such as organizing political meetings subject to the approval of governors.
“I don’t see this referendum as fair because the campaigns of the opposition were hindered throughout the country, while state funds were mainly allocated for the ‘yes’ campaign along with the state-run and pro-government media channels trying to indoctrinate people and silence and intimidate the dissident voices,” Aysegul Demirel, a voter from Ankara, told Arab News. “So such a constitution doesn’t seem (to be) the outcome of a social compromise.”
But Ismail Ozkanli, a pharmacist from the northwestern city of Rize, said he voted “yes” in the referendum because he wants a stable and stronger Turkey against the pressures of the West and other “dark circles” that want to divide the country.
Kader Sevinc, CHP representative to the EU, said the referendum process took place under very unfair conditions.
“It was an unfair campaign because naysayers (and) opponents were called terrorists, have faced threats, violence, arbitrary detentions, disproportionate TV airtime. We estimate that the government’s influence extended to 90 percent of the Turkish media,” Sevinc told Arab News.
“This referendum was a choice between saying goodbye to democracy in all its surviving manifestations and giving Turkey another chance to reclaim its secular democracy."

 


UN says Libyan sides sign countrywide cease-fire deal

Updated 22 min 52 sec ago

UN says Libyan sides sign countrywide cease-fire deal

  • Libya is split between a UN-supported government in the capital, Tripoli, and rival authorities based in the east
  • Libya’s prized light crude has long featured in the country’s civil war, with rival militias and foreign powers jostling for control of Africa’s largest oil reserves

GENEVA: The United Nations said Friday that the two sides in Libyan military talks had reached a “historic achievement” with a permanent cease-fire agreement across the war-torn North African country.
After mediation this week led by UN envoy for Libya Stephanie Turco Williams, the 5+5 Joint Military Commission reached what the UN called an “important turning point toward peace and stability in Libya.”
Details were not immediately available, but the two sides were taking part in a signing ceremony in Geneva on Friday morning.
Libya is split between a UN-supported government in the capital, Tripoli, and rival authorities based in the east. The two sides are backed by an array of local militias as well as regional and foreign powers. The country was plunged into chaos after the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
“The road to a permanent cease-fire deal was often long and difficult,” Williams, a former US State Department official, said in Arabic at the signing ceremony.
“Before us is a lot of work in the coming days and weeks in order to implement the commitments of the agreement,” she said. “It is essential to continue work as quickly as possible in order to alleviate the many problems due to this conflict facing the Libyan people.”
“We have to give people hope of a better future,” Williams added. She expressed hope the agreement will succeed “in ending the suffering of Libyans and allowing those displaced by the conflict to return to their homes.”
Ali Abushahma, the head of the delegation and a field commander for the UN-supported administration in Tripoli, said: “We have had enough suffering, enough bloodshed ... We hope we will change the suffering on all the territories of Libya, especially in the south.”
“I appeal to all Libya: Be one hand,” he said, warning about polarization by factions.
The meetings this week mark the fourth round of talks involving the Joint Military Commission under Williams’ watch. The Geneva-based military talks come ahead of a political forum in Tunisia in November. That forum aims to “generate consensus on a unified governance framework and arrangements that will lead to the holding of national elections,” the UN mission said.
On Wednesday, Williams had said the two warring factions agreed on issues that “directly impact the lives and welfare of the Libyan people,” citing agreements to open air and land routes in the country, to work to ease inflammatory rhetoric in Libyan media, and to help kickstart Libya’s vital oil industry.
Libya’s prized light crude has long featured in the country’s civil war, with rival militias and foreign powers jostling for control of Africa’s largest oil reserves.
Last month, the two sides reached preliminary agreements to exchange prisoners and open up air and land transit across the country’s divided territory. This breakthrough also accompanied the resumption of oil production after a months-long blockade by powerful tribes allied with military commander Khalifa Haftar, the leader of the eastern-based forces.
Haftar’s forces launched an offensive in April 2019 to try and capture Tripoli, the seat of the UN-supported government in the west. But his campaign collapsed in June.
Fighting has since died down amid international pressure on both sides to avert an attack on the strategic city of Sirte, the gateway to Libya’s major oil export terminals.