Turkish citizens celebrate the victory of referendum in Ankara, capital of Turkey, on April 16, 2017. Turkey voted to support constitutional change with "Yes" votes leading on 51.3 pct in the historic referendum after 99 pct count of vote, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported on Sunday. (Xinhua/Mustafa Kaya)
ANKARA, April 16 (Xinhua) -- Turkey on Sunday voted "yes" with a narrow lead for the country's key referendum, which will shift the parliamentary system to an executive presidency and grant President Recep Tayyip Erdogan more authority, according to unofficial results.
With 99 percent of votes counted, 51.35 percent backed the constitutional changes, compared to 48.65 percent for the "no" side, according to figures by state-run Anadolu Agency.
More than 86 percent of 55 million Turkish electorates casted vote on Sunday including 1.3 million voters abroad.
"No" votes have taken the lead in Turkey's three metropolis, Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir and the mainly Kurdish populated southeast.
Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak said that the results were not what they expected." "The 'yes' votes are lower than what we expected, but still they are ahead," he said on Sunday.
The leader of Turkey's Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Devlet Bahceli, who supported the "Yes" campaign, said on Sunday that the outcome of the referendum was an "undeniably successful achievement" and should be respected.
Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) said they would challenge the results of the referendum due to claims of irregularities and demand a recount of up to 60 percent of votes.
The main opposition party also said they will object decision of the Supreme Election Board (YSK) that it would accept unsealed ballot papers.
It received many complaints that the voters were given envelopes without stamps from officials, the board said in a written statement while people were casting their votes on Sunday.
The pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) suggested "an indication of a three-four percentage point manipulation of the vote."
The new administrative system will take effect after the elections in 2019 when Erdogan's current term ends, yet immediate changes are enabled for the president to head the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) while serving as the president, and make high-level appointments including members of Turkey's top judicial body without the parliament's approval.
The charter change will abolish the office of the prime minister and hand all executive power to the president, in the meanwhile weaken the parliament's role.
According to the amendments, the president is given the authority to issue decrees in effect of law. The president will be authorized to change all top-level bureaucrats by a presidential decree without parliament's approval.
The president is enabled to select, without the approval of parliament, as many government ministers and vice presidents as he likes. Parliament's oral questioning duty and authority to acquire information from the executive body will be lifted with the amendments.
The president is given the authority to annul parliament and declare an election, according to the charter change.
The charter change introduces accountability before law for the president, but makes it more difficult for the president to be referred to the Constitutional Court for trial. The number of lawmakers at the parliament will be increased from 550 to 660 and the minimum age to be elected will be reduced to 18 from 25.
The amendments have been criticized by the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and the People's Democratic Party (HDP) for breaking the principle of separation of powers in the parliamentary democracy, while the ruling party defends it, citing inefficiency of the existing administrative system.
Opponents argue that Erdogan, who has been in power as prime minister or president for 14 years, is becoming increasingly autocratic. They believe that the move will simply cement his hold on power in a "Turkish style" presidential system, which will have few checks and balances.
Based on the current composition of parliament, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has the majority of the seats.
President Erdogan served three consecutive terms as prime minister, before becoming the first directly elected president of the country in 2014.