'Yes' vote leads in Turkey referendum

Residents in several neighbourhoods of Turkey's largest city Istanbul banged pots and pans from their windows on Sunday in a traditional form of protest as President Tayyip Erdogan claimed victory in a tightly-fought referendum.

Turkey's two main opposition parties on Sunday said they would challenge the results putting the "Yes" camp ahead in the referendum on expanding the powers of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after alleged violations.

Erdogan and his supporters had argued the "Turkish-style" presidential system would bring stability and prosperity in a country rattled by a failed coup past year that left more than 200 people dead, and a series of devastating attacks by the Islamic State group and Kurdish militants.

Polls in the east opened at 7 a.m. (0400 GMT), while those in the west are to open an hour later.

Erdogan became the Prime Minister of Turkey in 2003, and with a "yes" vote his rule could extend through 2029.

People were already lined up at an Istanbul polling station before it opened.

In the predominantly Kurdish province of Diyarbakir, voter Mehmet Sayar didn't say which way he voted, but added: "I hope the result will be the best for our country because this referendum will determine the future of our children".

Erdogan supporters were celebrating with fireworks in Istanbul as the president said he is "grateful" to the people who "reflected their will'. A one-man system is like that", he said.

Following a tense campaign filled with diplomatic spats with other countries, heated domestic exchanges and the trading of political barbs between the "Yes" and "No" camps, the "Yes" campaign has emerged barely victorious, paving the way for the country's first ever executive presidency in 2019.

"Yes, yes, yes! Our leader is the gift of God to us", said Mualla Sengul.

Striking a conciliatory tone following the bitter contest, Mr Erdogan called on foreign powers to respect the outcome as he thanked the Turkish people.

He will absorb the powers of the now-eliminated prime minister - historically the more powerful of the two positions - and will be able eschew nonpartisan rules and lead his own political party, dismiss parliament, choose judges that were once selected by their peers, announce a state of emergency, and enact some laws by decree. We will always support him.

"No" supporters have complained of intimidation during the referendum campaign and that Turkey" s highly regulated media has given them little coverage. Another said he had backed "Yes" for a stronger republic and that "the outside world is against Turkey".

The campaign unfolded under a state of emergency imposed in the wake of the failed coup. After surviving an attempted coup last July, Erdogan launched a broad, sweeping crackdown against followers of his former ally, Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in the United States. More than 100,000 people have been fired or arrested, including more than 100 journalists.

Hundreds of non-governmental organizations and news outlets have been shut down, as have many businesses, from schools to fertility clinics. Turkey has sent troops into Syria to help opposition Syrian forces clear a border area from the threat posed by Islamic State militants.