Turkey referendum boosts Erdogan's Islam-rooted AKP party
Today's Turkey referendum resulted in a significant boost to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling AKP party as voters approved 26 amendments to the country's 1982 Constitution.
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“If ‘yes’ is the result, then Tayyip Erdogan will be the king alone, to decide for Turkey,” says Aslan. “He’ll become the sole power.”Skip to next paragraph
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But inside the primary school, upstairs past a number of portraits of Ataturk, the worldview of other Turkish voters could not be more different.
“We believe if we say ‘yes,’ it will be good for democracy, and we want democracy,” said Abdul Hamid, a student. His mother, a housewife called Altun, was wearing a black headscarf and said: “Yes, yes, yes!”
“We believe in the AKP, and in Prime Minister Erdogan,” said Mr. Hamid, who predicted a 60 percent victory for the “yes” vote. His father would arrive in five minutes, to vote the same way. “It is so important to change the rules.”
Calls for unity
Turkish President Abdullah Gul called for unity after casting his ballot: “From tomorrow onwards, Turkey needs to unite as one, and look ahead,” said Mr. Gul. “The public has the final say in democracies. I would like to remind everyone to welcome the result with respect and maturity.”
At rallies in the lead-up to the vote, Mr. Erdogan sought to reassure Turks that the changes were meant only to modernize Turkey’s coup-era Constitution in line with standards set by the European Union. The AKP has stepped up Turkey’s decades-long campaign for membership of the EU, which backed the amendments.
But the premier has also felt the need to tamp down suspicion that he wants more power himself, while eroding that of traditional power elites in the military and judiciary. The vote on Sunday falls precisely on the 30-year anniversary of a traumatic 1980 military coup.
“I have never wished to be a sultan,” he told CNN in an interview on Friday. “Right now, we are trying to eliminate the sultans from the republic…. We are the servants of our nation. We are not and will not be their masters.”
Sunday's referendum results show a closer yes-no gap in Istanbul and in more-secular western Turkey, while across the interior Anatolian plain support for the government’s proposed amendments was higher.
Ethnic Kurdish areas of the southeast largely heeded their leaders' calls for a boycott, though the 35 percent who turned out overwhelmingly voted in favor of the changes.
But in this Istanbul school, there was also suspicion. The vote was “very important because the AKP wants to take all the power for themselves,” said Nohal Cali, a book editor and poll worker.
“I believe the AKP is lying about democracy…. In past weeks [the atmosphere] was too polarized, so everyone is stressed about it,” says Mrs. Cali. “This is a struggle, and it doesn’t end here.”