Turks vote in historic referendum on expanding Erdogan's power
Turkey's president Tayyip Erdogan has ramped up his anti-EU rhetoric on the eve of a referendum which would hand him sweeping powers. "As we get closer to democracy, they are moving away from it", Erdogan told supporters at a rally in Istanbul.
The nadir of this process has been marked by the breathtakingly broad crackdown on dissent that followed the July 15 coup attempt previous year.
The outcome will also shape Turkey's strained relations with the European Union.
"The dismissal of up to 134,000 public servants, without due process, compensation, or access to a proper remedy, for alleged links with organizations that the Government has chosen to proscribe, can not be justified by reference to Turkey's longstanding worldwide human rights obligations", said the United Nations ahead of this Sunday's constitutional referendum.
"Sunday will be a turning point in the fight against terrorist organizations".
Others say they will vote "Yes" as the country's pro-Kurdish party, which they believe is linked to outlawed Kurdish separatist fighters, is against the constitutional changes. A narrow majority of Turks will vote "Yes", two opinion polls suggested on Thursday, putting his support at only a little over 51 percent. "Don't forget that the vote is our honour".
Erdogan labeled the actions of some western leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte as "fascist" and accused them of behaving like "Nazis" for preventing Turkish government officials from campaigning in favor of the referendum among the Turks living overseas.
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Turkish citizens will vote for or against a referendum package, which contains 18 amendments to the constitution. If the president dissolves parliament, then both parliamentary and presidential elections will be renewed. Vice presidents and ministers, but not the president, could still receive written parliamentary questions.
As we count down for the key vote, one thing is clear: Whichever side claims victory on Sunday, things are not going to be the same in this country strategically located between three continents.
People walk past a "YES" billboard with an image of Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ahead of the Sunday referendum, in Ankara, Turkey, Friday, April 14, 2017.
The standard-bearer of the "No" camp, Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, warned at a meeting in the Ankara region that Turkey was deciding if "we want to continue with the democratic parliamentary system or one man rule".
Erdogan said that German Chancellor Angela Merkel had asked him to extradite Yucel but that he had denied her request saying the journalist would be tried in Turkish courts, which he said would ensure a fair trial. Turkey, a country of some 80 million that connects Europe with Asia and a critical USA ally in North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, borders some of the world's most unstable places, starting with Syria and Iraq.
"This campaign was not carried out fairly and equally", Demirtas, who was arrested last November on terrorism charges, said in a joint letter with other detained HDP members which was read out at the rally. "The entire resources of the state were at disposal to support the "Yes" campaign of the AK Party".
Erdogan said there was no doubt Yucel had links to the outlawed Kurdish militant group PKK.
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