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Iran Press TV

Turkish premier says yes vote in April referendum to stabilize country

Iran Press TV

Sat Feb 25, 2017 2:37PM

In an attempt to rally support for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister has called for a yes vote in an upcoming constitutional referendum, arguing that a boost to the president's power would lead to a more stabilized country.

"For a strong Turkey, lasting stability, our choice is 'yes.' This is our wish, it will come," Binali Yildirim told thousands of people who had gathered in a sports arena in the Turkish capital, Ankara, in support of plans by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to increase presidential powers.

The rally was a kickoff to the AKP's yes campaign for the April 16 referendum, which aims to abolish the office of the prime minister and give more executive powers as an honor to the currently largely ceremonial position of president.

Yildirim said a yes to the changes, which he said should be a "willing" one and not created out of fear, would make the Turkish economy more robust and would make the government capable of dealing with terror threats successfully.

"We are taking the first steps on the path of a future strong Turkey," he said, adding, "There is no creating fear... We want a willing yes."

People were rallying by recordings of campaign songs with lyrics that said a yes vote would be a tribute to the martyrs of the failed coup of July 2016.

More than 250 were killed in a matter of a day on July 15 last year, when a group of renegade army and police officers attempted to oust Erdogan.

The coup failed permanently after the president returned to his office and people forced the putschists to lay down arms. Erdogan then ordered a massive crackdown, which has seen more than 40,000 people jailed and some 110,000 others discharged from their jobs.

Reports said the pro-referendum event on Saturday was held amid tight security as more than 6,500 police officers were deployed around the arena. People waved Turkish flags, but no AKP flags, apparently a bid by the ruling party to show that the referendum was a matter of national urgency and bipartisanship.

The crowd roared "Yes" when Yildirim said that ahead of the referendum "we will go square-to-square, street-by-street, door-by-door, and we know what we will say for change, don't we?"

The referendum faces stiff opposition in Turkey as critics say increased powers for the president would create a one-man rule and would slip Turkey into a dictatorship, especially at a time when Erdogan and the AKP are acting tough on opponents, including a large population of suspects in the Kurdish population.

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