Ruling AKP officially kicks off ‘Yes’ campaign for charter referendum
ANKARA - Anadolu Agency
AA photoThe ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) officially launched its ‘Yes’ campaign for the April 16 referendum on constitutional amendments on Feb. 25 in Ankara.
“We are taking the first step towards establishing tomorrow’s strong Turkey,” Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım told a crowd at Arena Stadium.
Yıldırım handed carnations to the crowd while entering the 40,000-person capacity sports complex, which was decorated with Turkish flags. 6,500 police officers secured the stadium and nearby streets.
The complex was also decorated with pictures of Turkey’s founding leader Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and Yıldırım. Campaign songs titled as “We say yes,” “Millions of Yes” and “Strong Turkey with Yes,” for the referendum supporting unity were also played.
A Yes campaign spotlighting developments in the economy, transportation, and health sectors as well as public works projects under the ruling party were shown to the crowd. One video featured footage from the July 2016 failed coup attempt and the bombing of the Turkish parliament.
“Change is difficult, reform is tough, but those who resist change because it is difficult, tough, or dangerous will disappear from history’s stage,” Yıldırım said.
“Cowards would never erect a monument to victory,” he added.
Yıldırım also said the executive presidency would bring terror to an end.
“The new system will bring terror to an end and eradicate it. Do you think that PKK (outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party), DEASH (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) and FETÖ (Fethullahist Terror Organization) shouting no campaign all for nothing? This has an understandable side because this change destroys them and cuts their life veins. They will perish no matter what they do,” he said.
Yıldırım also explained 18-item reform bill to the crowd in detail.
“The constitutional change that we are taking to a public vote would complete the unfinished business that was started in 2007,” he said, referring to a constitutional referendum that year which paved the way for direct election of the president.
“In fact, an important step for the presidential system was taken in 2007,” he added.
The premier also said that the new bill would enable around 7.5 million Turkish young people to seek seats in parliament.
He called on young supporters in the arena to go door-to-door in Turkey’s 81 provinces to ask people to vote for Yes.
“This change is a historic opportunity for our country,” Yildirim said, adding that strong leadership would prevent Turkey from facing any repeat of the coup attempt.
Yıldırım said that under the new system, the economy would have a stronger, steadier, and healthier foundation.
“Thanks to stability, investments and production will rise and new job opportunities will be provided,” he said.
On April 16, the electorate will be asked to vote Yes or No to an 18-article reform bill that would shift the current parliamentary system to an executive presidency.
The Yes campaign is backed by the AKP and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan launched his Yes campaign on Feb. 17 in the southern province Kahramanmaraş.
The bill was passed by parliament in January, with 339 votes in favor – nine more than needed to put the proposals to a referendum.
The proposals are set to hand wide-ranging executive powers to the president, such as the power to appoint ministers, and greater control over the judiciary. It also abolishes the post of prime minister, and the president will be able to retain ties to a political party.
The reforms envisage the elimination of parliament’s power to question ministers or stage a no-confidence vote in the government. The minimum age for parliamentary candidates is also set to be reduced to 18, while the amendments propose raising the number of deputies to 600. If approved, simultaneous parliamentary and presidential elections for a five-year term will be held in November 2019.