Erdoğan says naysayers in referendum side with July 15 coup plotters

Turkey's autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said those who will vote against a constitutional reform package which among other things brings an executive presidency in Turkey are actually taking side with the coup plotters who perpetrated a failed coup attempt on July 15.

Last Friday, Erdoğan approved the 18-article constitutional reform package, which will be put to a referendum on April 16.

Speaking at a news conference before departing for Bahrain for an official visit on Sunday, Erdoğan said: “April 16 will at the same time be an answer for July 15. It will be an important move against July 15. The position of naysayers is taking side with July 15. Nobody should derive a different meaning from this.”

In a previous statement, Erdoğan as well as Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım accused the potential naysayers in the referendum of taking side with the terrorist organizations.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), backed by the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), pushed through the legislation that President Erdoğan says will bring the strong leadership needed to prevent a return of the fragile coalition governments of the past.

The Republican People’s Party (CHP) and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) fear the reform will fuel authoritarianism.

UNION CHAIRMAN ATTACKED AS PRESSURE MOUNTS ON NAYSAYERS

Meanwhile, Turkish Bureau Union (Türk Büro Sen) Chairman Fahrettin Yokuş, who called on people to say “no” in an April 16 referendum on a presidential system for which President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is seeking public approval, was the target of gunshots in Ankara on Saturday, Cumhuriyet reported.

According to the report Yokuş, who made a statement against the presidential system, survived the attack without injury, but his driver, who was shot in the foot, was taken to the GATA hospital in Ankara.

Last month the headquarters of the Turkish Public Workers Labor Union (Kamu-Sen) was attacked by a group of people after İsmail Koncuk, the head of the union, announced that he would vote “no” in the referendum.

Twenty-five people attacked the headquarters of Kamu-Sen, which is known to be close to the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), and called on Koncuk to resign.

In a similar development, Ali Korkmaz, the İlkadım branch head of the MHP, was dismissed after he said he would vote “no” in the constitutional amendment referendum.

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have been waging a campaign for the referendum, claiming naysayers are on the side of terrorist organizations.

Imams of mosques have also been participating in the government campaign. An imam in İstanbul’s Ümraniye district accused naysayers of “treason” and “ignorance,” while an imam leading a group of Turks during Umrah in Mecca labeled naysayers as “infidels.”

Ömer Döngeloğlu, a popular preacher, campaigned for Erdoğan in front of the Kaaba.

Pressure on people intending to vote “no” has mounted in the media as well. Last week the contract of the Doğan Media Group’s Posta daily columnist Hakan Çelenk was reportedly cancelled by the newspaper days after he sarcastically criticized government plans for the presidential referendum.

On Saturday, the Doğan group fired İrfan Değirmenci, a presenter on Kanal D, because he declared on social media that he would vote “no” in the referendum, while the same group did not fire Fatih Çekirge despite his announcement that he would vote in favor of the referendum in his column last month.

Many people believe that the constitutional amendment will pave the way for a one-man regime under Erdoğan, who has already been criticized for being authoritarian as he has purged and jailed thousands of critical academics, politicians, teachers, doctors, officials, businessmen, artists and journalists.

The reform will enable Erdoğan to appoint and dismiss government ministers, take back the leadership of the ruling party and govern until 2029.

The plans foresee presidential and general elections in 2019, with a maximum of two five-year terms. (turkishminute.com) Feb. 12, 2017

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