Turkey detains 49 IS suspects said to be planning attacks

Posted April 16, 2017

Turkey is heading to a contentious April 16 referendum on constitutional refo.

Opinion polls have given a narrow lead for a "Yes" vote, which would replace Turkey's parliamentary democracy with an all-powerful presidency and may see Erdogan in office until at least 2029.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who delivered a speech to a crowd in an Istanbul neighborhood, has long championed the idea of changing Turkey's system of government from parliamentary to presidential.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday made a final push for votes in a referendum on expanding his powers, as the authorities said they had foiled a possible jihadist plot against the poll.

"The 18 articles foresee a very loose separation of powers", said Ahmet Kasim Han, an associate professor of global relations at Kadir Has University in Istanbul.

Polls suggest a neck-and-neck race for Sunday's vote.

"On Sunday I think that could be a very clear outcome in favour of "Yes" he said.

Erdogan said the proposed reforms could help counter a series of threats, including a failed military coup a year ago and a string of deadly bombings, some attributed to the Islamic State group. Ruling by decree through a state of emergency that has now lasted nine months, the government has fired about 130,000 civil servants, detained 71,000 people, fired 6,000 academics, 4,000 judges and prosecutors, and 24,000 police officers. Hundreds of news outlets and non-governmental organizations have been shut down.

The country is also dealing with the war in neighboring Syria, which led to an influx of some 3 million refugees.

Erdogan said there was no doubt Yucel had links to the outlawed Kurdish militant group PKK.

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It won 11.9 percent of the vote in the last election in 2015. "He will be the president of only half of the country", she said. Two opinion polls on Thursday showed a narrow majority of voters would vote in favor of the changes.

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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.

In fact, a Yes vote is only likely to intensify the frustrations driving that instability, and entrench Mr Erdogan's reliance on the tools of repression that increasingly characterise his rule.

Also opposing the proposed changes, the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP) held a rally on Saturday in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, which was addressed by its jailed co-leader Selahattin Demirtas.

On April 14, Erdogan told state broadcaster TRT that after the referendum he and his government will review the future of Turkey's relationship with Europe.

The vote comes at a perilous time. When ministers attempted to campaign in European Union countries, there was a clampdown on rallies and Erdogan responded by calling leaders "fascists" and "Nazis".

In rally after rally, he has argued that the new system will end periods of unstable governments and coalitions, prevent coups similar to last summer's failed attempt, and stop the system of dual leadership between the prime and the president. "We have paid dearly for these delays".

The opposition has complained of a lopsided campaign, with Erdogan using the full resources of the state and the governing party to dominate the airwaves and blanket the country with "yes" campaign posters.

If voters approve the constitutional reforms on Sunday, Erdogan would get greater powers to influence politics and justice, including the right to declare a state of emergency by himself.

Erdogan lashed out at the OSCE report in a campaign speech Friday in the central city of Konya.

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. They said it could be like Germany in 1933, when Adolf Hitler rose to power, but they said they didn't know what they could do about it. So they say they saw "yes" everywhere and did not see "no". Numerous dismissed public servants were trade union members, including more than 10,000 teachers who were members of the Education and Science Workers' Union.