ANKARA—Nearly 55 million Turks voted Apr. 16 in a referendum to approve a new regime for the country, a major move from a parliamentarian system into executive presidency.

According to unofficial results with 99.2 percent of the votes counted, 51.4 percent of registered voters voted in favor of a package of 18 constitutional amendments, with 48.6 percent voting against.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party officials claimed vote rigging and said they would object to vote counting in about half of the ballots nationwide.

The amendments give President Recep Tayyip Erdogan much broader powers than he has under the current system. He will be head of state, head of executive and head of the ruling party at the same time. He also will have powers to appoint deputy presidents, cabinet ministers, top bureaucrat and senior judges. 

Erdogan has been vocal on defense as well, stating Turkey should aim to have no dependency on foreign arms systems by 2023. Erdogan is also known to be a close friend of Ethem Sancak, owner of military vehicle manufacturer BMC.

"This is a historic decision," Erdogan said after unofficial results confirmed his victory. "This is the most important administrative reform in our history."

The amendments eliminate the office of prime minister and empowers the president with executive authority, including powers to single-handedly issue government decrees.

Erdogan's critics say the vote will create an all-too powerful office for the president. They say Turkey would drift into a one-man rule and further authoritarianism under new powers for Erdogan, an Islamist-populist leader.

Unless Erdogan calls for snap polls Turks are scheduled to go to ballot boxes to elect the president and members of parliament in November 2019.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, an Erdogan confidant who campaigned for 'Yes' said elections would be held on time.

Political observers say Erdogan and Yildirim may consider a cabinet reshuffle.

Erdogan became Turkey's first directly elected president in August 2014 when he won 51.5 percent of the nationwide vote.

This is a developing story. Check back to Defense News for more on the vote and its affect on the defense industry.

Burak Ege Bekdil is the Turkey correspondent for Defense News.

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