Turkish people protest against referendum result in Istanbul
Several hundred demonstrators have poured out onto the streets of Istanbul to protest the outcome of last week’s disputed referendum in which voters narrowly approved expanding President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s executive powers.
Chanting anti-Erdogan slogans during Saturday’s march, the protesters vowed to stay on the streets until the referendum’s result is annulled.
They carried banners reading, “No to one-man rule,” “Referendum should be annulled,” and “No. We won!” A demonstrator held up a cartoon of Erdogan reading, “They don’t let me be the president.”
“There is hatred and anxiety around us. We are going in the direction opposite to one we should be going. I am trying to make myself heard as this is the only thing I can do,” said protester Aysu Kaya.
In the April 16 referendum, Erdogan’s ‘Yes’ campaign won 51.36 percent of the votes, while the ‘No’ campaign gained 48.64 percent. Turkey’s three largest cities – Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir – voted against the constitutional reforms.
Erdogan declared victory in the vote, but opponents said the referendum was deeply flawed.
On Friday, Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) filed a court appeal against a decision by electoral authorities to accept unstamped ballot papers in the tightly contested vote.
Protester Yasar Sagturk said the demonstrators “have never had expectations from the judicial process.”
“They have always been partial. We will continue to be in the streets. We will be in the streets until the end,” he said.
Additionally, Sahin Akcay, another participant in Saturday’s rally, said, “We embarked on a journey and there is no return. We are resisting, and we will be the winners in the end.”
Supporters of the fresh constitutional changes argue that they will modernize the country, but opponents fear a possible authoritarian rule.
Under the new system, the office and position of prime minister would be scrapped in Turkey and the president would be granted executive powers to directly appoint top public officials, including ministers, and assign one or several vice presidents.
It further states that Turkey’s next presidential and parliamentary elections will be held simultaneously on November 3, 2019 and the head of state would have a five-year tenure, for a maximum of two terms.
The constitutional changes would mean that Erdogan could stay in power for another two terms until 2029.