Sunday’s referendum vote could result in Turkey’s most significant political development since the Turkish republic was declared in 1923.
President Erdogan says reform is needed to avoid the fragile coalition governments of the past and to give Turkey stability as it faces numerous security challenges.
The proposals are being put to the people because parliament failed to approve 18 amendments to the constitution.
These are among the most controversial measures which would could usher in wide-ranging and sweeping powers for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
What’s at stake – What’s it all about?
*The Prime Minster’s office disappears in favour of a new vice president
*The President becomes head of government and state, but can maintain party political ties
*The President will be able to enact laws by decree and dismiss parliament
*Parliament will no longer be able to scrutinise ministers
*Parliament’s powers to investigate or impeach president will be limited
The no campaign says this would take Turkey back to the age of the all-powerful Sultans, and be the first step in destroying Turkish democracy, and replacing it with an authoritarian theocratic-leaning regime.
“‘No’ would actually mean more of the same, under the current circumstances, which is to say that from what we have seen we can assume comfortably that the president today, will continue to run the country in the way that he has done since he has been elected president,” says political analyst Ahmet Kasim Han.
The ruling AK party has been able to push these measures through because ordinary Turks have been spooked by an upswing in terror attacks and the failed coup last year.
Both have given the AKP the cover to crack down on its opponents, but critics say it has gone too far and arrested many innocent people.
“So, what do those who are against constitutional changes say? If they say that Turkey is better governed this way without a presidential system it means that they defend coups, coalitions, crises and periods of chaos,” says President Erdogan in response.
Erdogan’s popularity had begun to slip before the Syria crisis gave him a chance to divert attention away from his party’s failings and corruption allegations and wrap himself in the flag, claiming Turkey was beset by enemies abroad and within.
The AK party machine has been busy abroad, trying to harvest votes among the millions-strong Turkish diaspora, and now Erdogan looks all but unassailable. If he wins the referendum, he will be.