Fate of Turkey's divisive referendum rests with voters

The "yes" vote would mean approval of constitutional changes that would replace the parliamentary system with a presidential one. Turkey is a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member helping fight ISIS.

A handout picture released by Turkish Presidential Press Service on April 14, 2017 shows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivering a speech in Konya during a meeting prior to the constitutional referendum.

"Under Bahceli, the party is likely to face a serious challenge with the (10 percent) election threshold", he said.

The vote positions Erdogan's political base spanning the country's vast rural heartland against cosmopolitan antagonists in the Istanbul - a global crossroads for centuries. The Erdogan government has used the emergency powers to conduct a sweeping purge of the military, judiciary and civil service.

The two had a falling out that year widely seen as a catalyst for a crackdown that's since made Turkey the world's largest jailer of journalists, according to Reporters Without Borders. The full weight of the state has seemingly been thrown behind the "yes" camp, while opponents say they have faced 143 attacks over the course of the campaign. The Islamic State group has called for attacks against the referendum.

"This constitutional change will bring stability and trust that is needed for our county's development, growth and stability", Erdogan told supporters at the rally.

Asked if Turkey was concerned their bid to become an European Union member state was fading into the distance, Cevik said: "Not really, because we are not sure where the European Union is going anyway". Due to ongoing clashes between outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and Turkish forces, the government is paying special attention to poll safety.

He said the debates on regime change in the country ended in 1923, when Mustafa Kemal Ataturk established modern Turkey as a republic.

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Under the existing constitution, Turkey's chief executive is the prime minister, chosen by the parliament.

The president would appoint an unlimited number of vice-presidents. Some are eager to avoid a repeat of the deadlocked coalition governments that hindered growth in the 1990s and are exhausted of frequent military coups. That "unduly invests the weight of the decisions and the power of the executive on the president". Etyen Mahcupyan, a one-time chief adviser to former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, a key figure in the AKP, wrote in the Karar newspaper on Thursday that he would be voting "No". Under the state of emergency, the president has authority over military appointments.

The current setup requires the president to be nonpartisan.

The President will also be able to declare a state of emergency without necessary cabinet approval and to draft the budget, which is now drawn up by Parliament. The new constitution would make the justice system even more beholden to Mr Erdogan and his party. A "no" would mark a major setback for Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's president, though far from a fatal one.

Erdogan argues that as Turkey's first president to be directly elected by the people — instead of the parliament — he has a wider mandate than previous presidents.

Cabinet ministers would no longer have to be members of Parliament and the Parliament would not have power over Cabinet appointments - ministers would be appointed directly by the president.

The draft states that the next presidential and parliamentary elections will be held on November 3, 2019.

Critics say there's a loophole that could give him even more years in the job than that.


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