Turkey’s main opposition party began a weeks-long campaign for people to vote down a controversial package of constitutional changes to replace Turkey’s parliamentary system with an executive presidential one in elections on Sunday.
The campaign against the constitutional changes was launched under a party resolution condemning the plans of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who stands accused of attempting to hold onto power for more than a decade.
“Our republic as a democratized civil state is being eroded one by one. Without a mandate, the highfalutin ideal of a European country will be squandered,” read a party document outlining the opposition’s platform.
The amendments, if approved, would give Erdogan full executive powers and remove limits on how long he can serve as president. The plan would also greatly expand the ability of the president to influence public appointments, elections and legislation.
In a televised speech over the weekend, Erdogan said the government would defend the package of changes, which would give him increased ability to govern Turkey without parliamentary approval.
“The constitutional amendments are being discussed in Parliament with democratic participation. It is in this context that we defend the constitution,” Erdogan said in his broadcast speech Saturday night.
The vote was called after the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors ruled the constitutional changes need to be voted on by the people. The Supreme Board issued the ruling last month, citing concerns that Turkey’s government-appointed body for overseeing judicial affairs was not independent. The judicial board is a judicial branch in its own right, but many of its members are appointed by Erdogan.
The opposition charges the president is trying to consolidate power and become a one-man rule in Turkey, a country that has seen a steady decline in democratic standards and curbs on freedoms since the establishment of the current Turkish government in the mid-1980s.
The timetable for the votes set out by Turkey’s Election Board indicates that both presidential and parliamentary elections will be held simultaneously on Nov. 1.
The date was decided by the Turkish government only on Friday and the Elections Board on Sunday. The Elections Board now must determine how to divide the votes cast on one election into both the president and the parliament.
Erdogan’s AK Party won by a razor-thin margin in parliamentary elections in June, with almost 44 percent of the vote.
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