The countdown is underway to next weekend’s constitutional referendum in Turkey, with Yes and No rallies drawing thousands of supporters. The debate on the 1982 constitution written under military rule is seen by many as a vote of confidence in Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party; he says it will strengthen democracy in Turkey and help the bid for EU membership.
“Those who want a greater Turkey are saying ‘Yes’; those who want democracy and freedom are saying ‘Yes’,” he told supporters in Istanbul.
But Erdogan’s critics say it will simply give the AK political control over the judiciary. Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the Republican Party, spoke in Ankara:
“The vote is coming; if you give us your support we will say ‘No’ on September 12th. We will follow the path of change, and Turkey itself will change,” he said.
Legal experts agree the judiciary needs to adapt, but fear the changes will mean the removal of checks and balances over Turkey’s powerful executive.