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News 16 Apr 17

Historic Referendum Will Shape Turkey’s Future

Turks go to the polls in a crucial referendum on Sunday, which will determine whether their already powerful President will become a virtual dictator or not.

Istanbul, Sarajevo
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, center, gestures with the members of his party before addressing his supporters during a referendum rally in Erzurum on April 12. Photo: Kayhan Ozer/Presidential Press Service, Pool Photo via AP

The referendum in Turkey is seen as one of the most important developments in the country’s history but its outcome remains unpredictable as recent public opinion polls have been close and inconclusive.

“The referendum is the most important event since the foundation of the [Turkish] republic and will shape the country’s future,” a Turkish political scientist told BIRN under condition of anonymity, citing security concerns.

“The result may cause a major shift in Turkey’s foreign policy and may also aid the rise of illiberal democracies and authoritarian leaders in Europe and the rest of the world,” the same political scientist added.

Some 53.76 million registered voters in Turkey will have the right to take part in the referendum, which will take place in 172,687 polling stations across the country.

Voting has already ended for several million Turkish voters who live abroad.

Around 2.86 million Turks were eligible to vote in 54 countries at 112 polling stations organised at Turkish diplomatic missions. Turkish residents abroad were also able to vote at airports and border points.

Their ballots were cast between March 27 and April 9 and the votes brought to Turkey in sealed boxes, where they will be counted on referendum night.

Erdogan’s victory in the referendum is likely to result in the continuation or strengthening of his government’s oppressive measures against dissenters, and may further worsen Turkey’s frayed relations with the EU and NATO.

Defeat in the vote would seriously undermine Erdogan’s image and increase internal and external pressure on him at least to call early elections.

He needs 50 per cent of the votes cast plus one vote in order to win the referendum.

Voters are being asked to give the President more control over the judiciary, bureaucracy, parliament and the army. The post of Prime Minister will be abolished.

Numerous opinion polls have been carried out in Turkey in the last two months but their findings have been inconclusive. They also showed a large percentage of voters were still undecided.

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