Polls close in Turkey referendum - UPDATED

Polls closed on Sunday in a referendum on whether to amend Turkey's military-drafted constitution.

Polls close in Turkey referendum - UPDATED

Polls closed on Sunday in a referendum on whether to amend Turkey's military-drafted constitution, a vote seen as a test of support for Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan before a 2011 general election.

The citizens voted in 32 provinces in east of Turkey between 07.00 a.m -4.00 p.m. and in 49 provinces in west of Turkey in 08.00 a.m. - 5.00 p.m.

Constitutional amendments include change in structure of Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors, as well as the Constitutional Court, country's top judiciary body.

Turkey's Constitutional Court has annulled parts of the package in July, rejecting to overturn the entire package in a move to upset country's main opposition party, CHP, which had appealed to the top court to scrape-off the package as a whole.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has said the changes to a charter drafted in the 1980s after a military coup exactly 30 years ago are needed to strengthen democracy.

The package abolishes the provisional article 15 of the constitution which does not allow trial of the members of the National Security Council formed after the military coup in 1980, the ban on right to general strike; and paves the way for a citizen to become a member of more than one labor union, and civil servants and other public officials the right to collective bargaining.

It also paves the way for trial of parliament speaker, chief of general staff, and senior commanders by the High Tribunal on charges of crimes they commit regarding their positions.

"Street clashes over boycott call"

Street clashes marred voting at several polling stations in provinces with large Kurdish populations. A Kurdish party has urged supporters to boycott the ballot.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan voted in Istanbul with his wife and daughter, posing for the media with the envelope in his hands and saying the referendum was an important step for Turkish democracy.

"Turkish democracy is at a turning point today, we are sitting an important test," Erdogan said after voting in Uskudar district of Istanbul, as police sharpshooters lay in position on rooftops around the school serving as a polling station.

How Kurds vote could prove important in a tight race. Erdogan said the boycott had little impact except in Hakkari district bordering Iran.

The date evoked Turkey's traumatic past. Sunday was the 30th anniversary of a coup that curbed years of political and street chaos but led to widespread arrests, torture and extrajudicial killings, and PKK militants launched a rebellion a few years later that continues today.

If approved, the constitutional amendments would also remove immunity from prosecution for the engineers of the 1980 coup. Kenan Evren, the military chief who seized power and became president, is 93 and ailing.

The election board barred the broadcast of any results until 9 p.m. (1800 GMT), but the ban was expected to be relaxed and preliminary official results might be available by around 6 p.m. (1500 GMT).


Agencies


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Last Mod: 12 Eylül 2010, 20:56
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