Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Pic/AFP
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Pic/AFP

Istanbul: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was celebrating a narrow win in a referendum giving him sweeping new powers that left incensed rivals demanding a major recount.

The referendum was seen as crucial for the future strategic direction of a nation that has been a NATO member since 1952 and an EU hopeful for half a century.

The 'Yes' camp won 51.41 per cent in Sunday's referendum on a new presidential system and 'No' 48.59, according to near-complete results released by the election authorities. But Erdogan's victory was far narrower than expected, emerging only after several nail-biting hours late Sunday, which saw the 'No' result dramatically catch up in the later count.

The opposition parties said they would appeal the results from most of the ballot boxes due to alleged violations. Turkey's three largest cities — Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir — all voted 'No' although 'Yes' prevailed in Erdogan's Anatolian heartland.

With the opposition crying foul over alleged violations, all eyes will be on Monday's announcement by international observers from the OSCE and the Council of Europe who will give their initial assessment of the vote.