BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany said the close result in Sunday’s referendum on expanding Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s powers was a big responsibility for him to bear and showed how divided Turkish society was.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel also said on Monday that Turkish authorities needed to address concerns about the content and procedure of the referendum raised by a panel of European legal experts.
Erdogan declared a narrow victory in Sunday’s vote, which marked the biggest overhaul of modern Turkish politics. Opponents said it was marred by irregularities and they would challenge the result.
Merkel and Gabriel said they noted the preliminary result showing a victory for the ‘Yes’ camp.
“The German government ...respects the right of Turkish citizens to decide on their own constitutional order,” they said in a statement.
“The tight referendum result shows how deeply divided Turkish society is and that means a big responsibility for the Turkish leadership and for President Erdogan personally.”
They expected Ankara to have a “respectful dialogue” with all parts of Turkish society and its political spectrum after a tough campaign.
On Sunday, the European Commission said Turkey should seek a broad national consensus on constitutional amendments, given the narrow ‘Yes’ majority and the extent of their impact.
In March the Venice Commission, a panel of legal experts at the Council of Europe, said the proposed changes to the constitution on which Turks voted, namely boosting Erdogan’s power, represented a “dangerous step backwards” for democracy.
Merkel and Gabriel pointed to the Commission’s reservations and said that, as a member of the Council of Europe and the OSCE security and human rights watchdog and an EU accession candidate, Turkey should quickly address those concerns.
“Political discussions about that need to take place as quickly as possible, both at the bilateral level and between the European institutions and Turkey,” Merkel and Gabriel said.
Official results of the referendum are expected within 12 days.
Reporting by Michelle Martin and Maria Sheahan; editing by John Stonestreet