turkey - Reuters - Sept 12 2010
Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan casts his vote at a polling station in Istanbul. Photo by Reuters
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Turkey passed a historic threshold by voting in favor of constitutional reforms in a defeat for supporters of military coups, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday.

An unofficial, preliminary count showed 58 percent of Turkish voters approved a raft of government-backed constitutional amendments in a referendum on Sunday with 99 percent of ballot boxes counted, according to private NTV television channel. The charter was drafted after a military coup in 1980.

Prime Minister Erdogan has said the changes to a charter are needed to strengthen democracy and bring Turkey closer to European norms, which are vital if the country hopes to join the EU. Critics say the changes will give Erdogan's party control over the judiciary.

The referendum has been seen as a tussle between a government led by conservative Muslims and secular opponents for influence over the country's future. Erdogan and his party are accused by the secular establishment of harboring Islamist ambitions.

The vote is a show of support for Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, whose AK Party has pushed political and economic reforms since coming to power in 2002. Erdogan has been in power for two consecutive terms, and will face national elections by July 2011.