Millions of people in Turkey will cast their votes on Sunday in a referendum that could fundamentally change how the country is governed. If passed, the new constitution would give President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sweeping new power over Turkish politics and potentially let him rule for more than a decade to come.
Turks are deeply polarized over the referendum, and many of Erdogan’s political opponents worry about reprisal if they were to speak out against reforms. But despite a fervent campaign from Erdogan and the ruling AK Party to push a “yes” result, polls still show an incredibly tight race days.
“Against insurmountable odds, complete blanket coverage of the ‘yes’ campaign, there is stiff resistance to this among the Turkish population,” said Aaron Stein, a resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council think tank.
The proposed new constitution would have wide-ranging effects, such as increasing the number of seats in Parliament, but the greatest change would be the powers granted to the president. Erdogan would become head of the executive and of the state, doing away with the role of prime minister. He could dismiss Parliament, call a state of emergency, appoint ministers and judges ― all without approval from lawmakers.
The constitutional changes also include a provision that the president would be eligible to hold office for two five-year terms. Turkey has elections scheduled in two years, which could mean that Erdogan would have a chance to be in power until at least 2029.
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