Erdogan and opposition play last cards before vote

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The constitutional changes are backed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) he founded and the far-right Nationalist Action Party (MHP), whose support at parliament was key to take the proposal to a public vote.

The MHP has been going through an internal fragmentation since their leadership decided to back the proposed constitutional amendments. Various senior MPs, who entered the parliament under the party’s banner, campaign for “No”.

The AK Party carries the whole “Yes” campaign, with very limited and separate appearances from the MHP, the smallest of the four parties represented in the parliament.

The two parties argue the new system will prevent a return to fragile parliamentary coalitions at a time when the country is facing challenges such as multiple security concerns, an influx of refugees from Syria and the fallout from a failed coup, which led to an ongoing state of emergency across the country.

A “Yes” vote in the referendum will allow the president to assign ministers as well as half the members in the country’s highest judicial body

Erdogan said at a recent rally that Turkey’s current system has created many short-lived governments, adding that government changes have histrorically been far more frequent in Turkey than Western countries.

“The fact that we had 48 governments is not the expression of the strength of our democracy, but the instability of it.” “The governing system’s codes are stability and security,” he said in another rally, adding that Turkey paid a great price in the past due to lack of both.

During the past few years, deadly bomb attacks claimed by or blamed on Kurdish fighters groups and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) killed hundreds of security forces and civilians. Security concerns were further emphasised when some members of the Turkish army dramatically tried to topple the government last July in a failed coup until they faced strong resistance from the populace and the rest of the army.

Turkey accuses Fethullah Gulen, a religious leader who lives in self-imposed exile in the United States, of orchestrating the coup attempt that killed around 300 people in total and led to purges within state institutions. The government says the purges aim at removing Gulen’s supporters from the institutions.

Many “Yes” voters express their confidence in Erdogan and say the need for economic and political stability is the reason for the direction of their vote. “I have seen Turkey’s most volatile times during my lifetime: economic downturns, coups and lousy coalitions,” said Fatma Aksoz, a “Yes” supporter, in the district of Eminonu.

“We have had a stable government for 15 years now. What if we stay in the current system and in years ahead, we have to deal with another coalition government and instability?” the 57-year-old pensioner told Al Jazeera.

source: Al Jazeera

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