Polls open in Turkey's historic referendum on reforms

People wait to cast their ballots at a polling station during a referendum in Ankara Turkey

People wait to cast their ballots at a polling station during a referendum in Ankara Turkey

Erdogan supporters gathered outside the governing AK Party headquarters in Istanbul and Ankara to celebrate, with the crowd in Istanbul sending fireworks into the night sky.

His critics fear that if the "yes" vote prevails in Sunday's referendum, Erdogan will have cemented his grip on power with scant chance of checks and balances, and practically no room for opposition or dissent.

"Now that Turkey has obviously taken the wrong path from a European perspective, we need to re-evaluate our relationship, and specifically that means that the EU accession talks with Turkey that we're still having can no longer be continued".

A "Yes" vote could also see Mr Erdogan remain in office until 2029.

Another CHP deputy head, Erdal Aksunger, said it could appeal up to 60 percent of the vote.

On the eve of the vote, Erdogan held four separate rallies in Istanbul, urging supporters to turn out in large numbers.

"I don't want one person to be in charge of Turkey".

Peter Altmaier, Merkel's chief of staff, said on German broadcaster ARD that the result showed there was a "very lively political debate" in Turkey, but it was necessary to wait for official results before commenting further.

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Figures from vote counts showed Yes on 51.70 percent - 23,997,153 votes - while No had 48.30 percent, or 22,420,313 votes.

"We will pursue a legal battle".

The referendum has bitterly divided the nation.

"Turkey is opening a new page in its democracy. A one-man system is like that", said Istanbul resident Husnu Yahsi, 61, who said he was voting "no".

In one of his final rallies, he said a strong "Yes" vote would "be a lesson to the West".

This result gives the president new powers to assign ministers, high-level state officials, and vice-presidents, as well as half the members in the country's highest judicial body.

The vote comes as Turkey has been buffeted by problems.

His election campaigns have been forceful and bitter, with Erdogan lashing out at his opponents, accusing them of endangering the country and even supporting terrorism.

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"Turkey remains under a state of emergency declared last July, following a failed coup that left almost 300 people dead".

They say his ability to retain ties to a political party - Mr Erdogan could resume leadership of the AK Party - would end any chance of impartiality.

They said Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants staged the attack in Van's Muradiye district. "But still they are ahead", he added.

I watched as queues of voters turned up to a polling station in Ankara where the voting process was quick and efficient. The cause of the clash was not immediately clear.

In another Istanbul neighborhood, a "yes" voter expressed full support for Erdogan.

The pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) also challenged the vote.

CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu has accused Erdogan of seeking a "one-man regime", and said the proposed changes would put the country in danger.

If passed, the new presidential system would dispense with the office of prime minister and centralise the entire executive bureaucracy under the president, giving Erdogan the direct power to appoint ministers.

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