Turkey votes in key referendum on presidential system
Supporters listen to the speech by President Erdogan during a rally in Istanbul.(Reuters)
Date: 2017-04-16 08:18
Poll opened across Turkey on Sunday for a key referendum on changes in the constitution which would shift the country to a presidential system.
The outcome will also shape Turkey’s strained relations with the European Union. The NATO member state has curbed the flow of migrants - mainly refugees from wars in Syria and Iraq - into the bloc but Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he may review the deal after the vote.
Over 55.3 million Turks are eligible to vote at 167,000 polling stations across the nation which opened at 7.00 am (0400 GMT) in the east of the country. Voting in the rest of the country begins at 8.00 am and closes at 5 pm (1400 GMT). Turkish voters abroad have already cast their ballots.
The referendum has bitterly divided the nation. Proponents of the changes say they are needed to amend the current constitution, written by generals following a 1980 military coup, confront the security and political challenges Turkey faces, and avoid the fragile coalition governments of the past.
Opponents, however, say it is a step toward greater authoritarianism in a country where around 40,000 people have been arrested and 120,000 sacked or suspended from their jobs in a crackdown following a failed coup last July.
Supporters see the new system as an essential modernisation step for Turkey but opponents fear it risks granting Erdogan authoritarian powers.
Supporters of the reform argue that it would end the current "two-headed system" in which both the president and parliament are directly elected, a situation they argue could lead to deadlock. Until 2014, presidents were chosen by parliament.
Opposition’s Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, warned at his final rally that Turkey was deciding if "we want to continue with the democratic parliamentary system or one-man rule".
The government says Turkey, faced with conflict to the south in Syria and Iraq, and a security threat from Islamic State and Kurdish PKK militants, needs strong and clear leadership to combat terrorism.
The package of 18 amendments would abolish the office of prime minister and give the president the authority to draft the budget, declare a state of emergency and issue decrees overseeing ministries without parliamentary approval.