Turkey sees final day of campaigning ahead of landmark vote

16 April, 2017, 00:40 | Author: Gregory Stephens
  • A building-sized portrait of President Erdogan for the Evet campaign. All

Turkey is heading to a con.

"One of the most important messages", Erdogan said in November 2015 regarding the spate of violence, "is that Turkey must resolve this Constitution issue right away" and transfer executive powers to the president.

The referendum, meanwhile, polarized Turkey's 58 million eligible voters and left many undecided.

"It became clear to us that a presidential system whereby the president is elected by popular vote forces groups to compromise with one another and nominate a candidate whom the public at large could support to win more than 50 percent of the vote", wrote Ayse Sozen Usluer, a foreign policy adviser to Erdogan. This referendum is likely to strengthen the authoritative powers of President Erdogan whose popularity increased dramatically after a failed coup last summer.

According to data released by Turkey's election organisation body, the Supreme Election Board (YSK), more than 55 million people out of the country's almost 80 million population are eligible to vote. The ballot papers have been transferred to Turkey for counting on Sunday. In eastern Turkey and Black Sea region, the voting will start at 7:00 am and end at 4 pm.

Nonetheless, Turkey needs a "no" on Sunday.

Critics argue that will allow Erdogan - who has been in power either as prime minister or president since 2003 - to rule at least until 2029 with few checks and balances in a system where the separation of powers will be less clear-cut.

If the referendum is approved by majority vote, the office of prime minister would be abolished after the next elections, scheduled for 2019. But he has spent less time on the details of the proposed constitutional reforms. The final decision would rest with the constitutional court, composed nearly entirely of the president's appointees. Since July, Erdogan has jailed journalists and political opponents, including Selahttin Demirtas, the leader of the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party. Under the current Constitution, presidents are required to severe ties with their parties. "If the president is not speaking out, if he acknowledges it, then what would be the decision of nationalists - who are against a federal structure and support a unitary one - be (in the referendum) in two days?" A new provision would widen the scope for Mr Erdogan's impeachment by parliament, though it would set the bar for removing him from office exceptionally high.

The changes will allow the President to dissolve Parliament. Parliamentary and presidential elections would be held simultaneously every five years.

Erdogan has an incentive to call a snap election swiftly if he secures a "yes" vote in the plebiscite, since the new powers he has long sought would take effect only after fresh elections for president and parliament.

Meanwhile, a last-minute dispute appeared to be brewing between Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its main political ally in implementing the plan, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

The opposition has complained of a lopsided campaign, with Erdogan using the full resources of the state and the governing party to dominate the airwaves and blanket the country with "yes" campaign posters.

The poll is also taking place under a state of emergency that has seen 47,000 arrested in an unprecedented crackdown after the July 15 failed coup.


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