Turks have begun voting on Sunday on a referendum that would substantially reconfigure the political system and grant sweeping powers to the office of the presidency. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hopes Turks at home and abroad will vote “yes” to his demand for the reconfiguration, but his critics fear the vote may add the weight of the constitution to his de facto one-man rule. If passed, the proposed changes would have a profound impact on a country that is a leading player in the Syrian civil war, a major way station along the migration routes to Europe and a crucial Middle Eastern partner of the United States and Russia. The latest polls suggest the vote could be close, despite the government’s prolonged intimidation of “no” campaigners, several of whom have been shot at and beaten while on the stump by persons unknown.
The new system would, among other things:
• Abolish the post of prime minister and transfer executive power to the president.
• Allow the newly empowered president to issue decrees and appoint many of the judges and officials tasked with scrutinizing his decisions.
Members of the opposition are concerned that the new system would threaten the separation of powers on which liberal democracies have traditionally depended.
• Limit the president to two five-year terms, but give the option of running for a third term if Parliament truncated the second one by calling for early elections.