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Referendum campaigning kicks off in Turkey

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Erdogan kicks of campaign at rally
Suppporters say vote will guarantee stability
Opponents fear lurch towards authoritarianism

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has kicked off campaigning for a referendum that aims to create an executive presidency in Turkey.

Thousands of supporters gathered to wave flags at the event in the city of Kahramanmaras.

Erdogan addressed the crowd.

Critics say the plan will concentrate too much power in the hands of Erdogan. Many have accused him of increasingly authoritarian behaviour.

When will the referendum be held?

April 16.

How significant is it?

Very.

The proposed constitutional reform would mark one of the biggest changes in Turkey’s system of governance since the modern republic was founded from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire almost a century ago.

It would enable the president to issue decrees, declare emergency rule and appoint ministers and top state officials.

It could also see Erdogan remain in power unti 2029.

What do his supporters say?

That the plans are a guarantee of stability at a time of turmoil.

Turkey’s security, they say, is threatened by wars in neighbouring Syria and Iraq, as well as by a spate of ISIL and Kurdish militant attacks.

What do the opponents say?

Opponents fear a lurch toward authoritarianism.

Tens of thousands of public servants – teachers, journalists, soldiers and police – have been detained in Turkey since a failed coup attempt last July.

What does Erdogan say?

The Turkish president has warned those who vote against the changes will strengthen Turkey’s enemies, including the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

He says an executive presidency is needed to avoid the fragile parliamentary coalitions of the past, adding that the 65 governments in the 93 years of the modern republic have each lasted an average of 16 months.

What do the opposition say?

That they are going to be crowded out.

“This is definitely not going to be a fair referendum. We know what the pro-Erdogan media will have a broadcasting policy that completely ignores the opposition,” said CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu.

Supporters of the nationalist MHP, the fourth largest party in the Turkish parliament, are divided over the proposed changes.

The party’s veteran leader Devlet Bahceli and many of its deputies support the plans.

However, prominent party member Meral Aksener, who mounted a failed leadership challenge last year, is against.
Referendum campaigning kicks off in Turkey

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