Turkey detains 49 IS suspects said to be planning attacks

Jay Jacobs
April 16, 2017

As Turks prepare to vote in a referendum that would greatly expand the powers of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the advocates of the change are brimming with confidence while opponents say they don't know how to prevent the advent of one-man rule. Erdogan would be able to reclaim his position as head of the ruling party, and he would gain new authority to appoint members to the council that oversees the naming of judges and prosecutors. Until 2014, presidents were chosen by parliament.

Critics, however, argue that Erdogan, who has been at the helm of Turkish government as prime minister or president since 2003, will simply cement his hold on power in a system that will have few checks and balances. Overseas votes have already been cast in high numbers.

Erdogan, who has fronted the campaign for a "yes" vote, says the proposed "Turkish-style" presidential system will banish weak governments, establish an efficient state and bring prosperity to the country.

More than 55 million people are eligible to vote at 167,140 polling stations across the country, according to Reuters.

Analysts regard the referendum as a crossroads in the modern history of the country that will affect not just the shape of its political system but also its relations with the West.

If approved in the referendum, the constitutional changes take effect with the next general elections, scheduled for 2019.

There also seems to be reactionary backers of the constitutional changes, who will vote for the amendments because they believe some European allies of Turkey are supporting the "No" side.

People walk past a "YES" billboard with an image of Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ahead of the Sunday referendum, in Ankara, Turkey, Friday, April 14, 2017.

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The changes would mean that Erdogan could theoretically remain president through 2029, reports US News & World Report. One of the Turkish democratic "choke points" has been the election of the president by Parliament.

Another complicating factor is the atmosphere of intimation under which the vote is taking place, in which government rhetoric has branded No voters terrorist supporters and traitors to the nation.

Eskisehir, an industrial city of 800,000, is located in central Anatolia, the heartland for Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), but it's controlled by the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP). The age of candidacy for a parliamentary seat would be lowered from 25 to 18.

A failed military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 killed over 240 people and wounded more than a thousand others.

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 pro-"yes" campaign posters. About a dozen legislators from Turkey's opposition pro-Kurdish party are also in prison. One of the government's emergency decrees abolished sanctions against media organisations producing biased coverage in the lead up to the election, to the obvious benefit of the government, which now indirectly controls the bulk of Turkey's media.

Turkey has suffered from a series of violent attacks and bombings since 2015, linked to the resumption of conflict with Kurdish rebels in the southeast and increased activity of foreign and local Islamic State group cells in Turkey.

Security will be high for Sunday's vote, with almost 34,000 police deployed in Istanbul alone.

Other reports by TheDailyFarc

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