Obama hails ”vibrancy” of Turkish democracy as EU welcomes referendum outcome
US President Barack Obama on Sunday hailed the "vibrancy of Turkish democracy" after almost 80 percent of voters turned out for a weekend referendum on a major constitutional reform package. Some 58 percent of Turkish voters approved the package, while 42 percent opposed it. The package includes key changes to the structures of the country's top two judicial bodies, the Constitutional Court and Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors, in a bid to make the selection of the members of these bodies more democratic, as well as limits the mandate of military courts, expands freedoms and rights in various areas, and opens the way for military personnel to be tried in civilian courts for non-military crimes. The White House said Obama had telephoned Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and congratulated him on Turkey's hosting of the World Basketball Championship. After Obama made the call, the US defeated the Turkish team to win the gold medal. "The president also acknowledged the vibrancy of Turkey's democracy as reflected in the turnout for the referendum that took place across Turkey today," said a White House statement. In related news, the European Commission welcomed Turkish voters' approval of the constitutional changes. "These reforms are a step in the right direction, as they address a number of longstanding priorities in Turkey's efforts toward fully complying with EU accession criteria," said EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule. Fule said the outcome demonstrates the continued commitment of Turkish citizens to reforms in view of enhancing their rights and freedoms. "However, their impact on the ground will depend on their actual implementation," he added. "We share the views of many in Turkey that today's vote needs to be followed by other much-needed reforms to address the remaining priorities in the area of fundamental rights, such as freedom of expression and freedom of religion." He also said, "We agree with those across the political spectrum in Turkey who believe that a new civilian constitution would provide a solid base for a sustained development of democracy in Turkey, in line with European standards and the EU accession criteria." Turkey, which is negotiating its entry into the EU, still has a Constitution that was put in place following a 1980 coup, one of four military interventions that have unseated elected governments in Turkey since 1960.