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BREAKING: Erdogan declares victory in a referendum that divided Turkish regions

With almost all ballots counted, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appears to have won the referendum on vastly expanded Presidential, some would say, tyrannic powers.

In the last few hours of counting, the vote has narrowed to 51.41% (with over 99% of votes counted) in favour of the reforms.

Erdogan has now declared victory and congratulated his supporters.

However, the most important development in the ballot counting has been the regional distribution of votes.

Erdogan’s ‘YES’ vote has done exceptionally well in central Anatolia, the traditional regional support base for Ergogan’s neo-Islamist/neo-Ottoman AK Party (Justice and Development Party).

However, in western Anatolia the ‘NO’ vote tended to dominate. In the major western cities of Turkey including the capital Ankara as well as the former capital Istanbul (formerly Constantinople), the ‘NO’ vote won by just over 51%, virtually the exact inverse of the margin in favour of ‘Yes’ votes nationwide.

In heavily Kurdish areas such as Diyarbakır, ‘NO’ led with over 67% of votes cast.

Interestingly, in Izmir, a known hotbed of the Gülen Movement, the ‘NO’ vote won by 68%, one of the highest ‘NO’ victories outside of Kurdish regions.

Turkish citizens living abroad were also eligible to vote. Erdogan’s courting of Turkish voters in Europe became controversial when pro-Erdogan rallies in Germany and The Netherlands were infamously cancelled.

In both countries, the ‘Yes’ vote won strongly. Turks in Germany supported Erdogan’s camp with nearly 63% of total ballots cast. In The Netherlands, the ‘YES’ vote won easily with 69% of the vote. France which allowed an Erdogan sponsored rally saw ‘YES’ winning with 64% of votes.

Bucking the western European trend, Turks in the United States and Russia voted overwhelmingly for ‘NO’. Many of these Turkish passport holders are of Armenian or Greek heritage who are generally opposed to Erdogan’s policies which are seen as discriminatory against Christian minorities. Russia also is home to many exiled or emigre Kurds, some with Turkish passports who would have clearly voted ‘NO’ in the referendum.

Because the overall vote has ended in a closer margin than many expected, controversy has erupted by an official decision to count ballots without the official seal of the Turkish Elections Board.

Allegedly, ballots at some polling stations were given out that did not bear the official seal.

Recognition of such ballots is an unprecedented move in recent Turkish elections. This has raised the concerns that some votes were tampered with and that some individuals may have been able to vote more than once.

In some respects, the vote has some striking parallels with the Brexit referendum. In Brexit, so called ‘Middle England’ voted strongly in favour of Brexit while major metropolitan areas like London voted in favour of EU membership. This can be compared between the divided between major cities like Istanbul and Constantinople along with western Anatolia vis-a-vis central Anatolia.

In the Brexit referendum, Scotland and Northern Ireland voted strongly against Brexit, just as Kurdish regions of Turkey voted against Erdgoan’s ‘YES’ camp.

There are also some parallels with Ukraine’s last legal Presidential election.

The 2010 Ukrainian presidential election saw Viktor Yanukovych do well in historic Russian regions of modern Ukraine. This included heavy support in the regions of the country that have since declared independence; The Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics.

By contrast, regions of Ukraine formerly ruled by Austria and Poland in the north west of the country, voted strongly in favour of Yanukovych’s far-right rival Yulia Tymoshenko. Yanukovych’s national victory at 48.95% to 45.47% for Tymoshenko was an even closer margin than Erdogan’s victory today.



Depending on how Erdogan exercises his newly granted powers, he could end up exasperating the internal divides of Turkey which include a combination of factors such as Kurdish separatism, Gulenism, a Salifist/ISIS inspired insurgency and direct Wahhabist terrorism, as well as a secular Kemalist movement that will be hugely disappointed in the results of the vote.

The results of today’s ballot generally follow the pattern established in Turkey’s last Pariamentary election, held in November of 2015.

Kemal partyIf

The map in red indicates the regions (above) and districts (below) won by the strongly secular Kemalist CHP. Purple indicates victory for the pro-Kurdish HDP, while yellow is where Erdgoan’s AK Party won the overall vote.

Thus, today’s referendum has exposed Turkish political-regional divides even more sharply than the last Parliamentary election.

If Erdogan does not tread carefully and history shows that he will not, Turkey’s ultra-powerful President may indeed live to prove the words of Ataturk correct: They go as they come.

they go

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.

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