Turks remain undecided on referendum
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s critics were more vocal before last year’s botched coup.
In April 16, Turkey is due to vote in a divisive referendum that could vastly expand the powers of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to change the existing parliamentary system, where the prime minister is the head of the government and the president has limited political powers.
Erdogan wants to create an executive presidency, making him the head of the government and scrapping the role of prime minister.
If victorious at the referendum, the president would select the cabinet and have the power to appoint two-thirds of senior judges.
“The issue of a presidential system which we are today talking about is not something which emerged overnight. There is a considerable background behind this [proposal]. It is certainly not about the issue of being a republic. It is certainly not about the issues of democracy and freedom either,” Erdogan said.
Erdogan could pass certain laws by decree, have the power to dismiss parliament and to declare a state of emergency.
They could pass some laws by decree and would have the power on their own to dismiss parliament and to declare a state of emergency.
Parliament, in turn, would lose some powers, including its ability to summon cabinet ministers to appear before its committees.
Erdogan has said Turkey’s parliamentary system leads weak coalitions that fail to make big decision.
The new system would make Turkey’s government stronger and more decisive when dealing with Islamist and Kurdish threats, the president argues.
He claims his proposal is similar to the systems in US and France, which both have executive presidents.
The government’s critics say the new system would give too much power to the president and that it lacked proper checks and balances on the presidency.
Erdogan could potentially stay in office until 2029. He became prime minister in 2003.
While Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party and the small, ultra-nationalist Nationalist Movement Party is backing the “yes” campaign, the secular Republican People’s Party, the official opposition and was once the dominant political party, is opposing it.
The Kurdish HDP is campaigning on the “No” side along with left-wing groups.
Since last July’s coup thousands of civil servants and academics have been sacked, journalists and opposition leaders jailed and Erdogan’s control of the media deepened.
The opposition to the referendum say they face a campaign of intimidation and harassment.
The polling says the campaign is close, with a large proportion of undecided voters making it hard to make a confident prediction.
Picture credit: Wikimedia