‘Yes’ and ‘No’ campaign for charter referendum goes online

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Celebrities, athletes and TV figures have waded into the debate on charter amendments that will usher in a powerful presidency, turning to social media to publicly announce whether they are for or against the major changes to the country’s political system. 

Turkish and Barcelona football player Arda Turan added his name to the pro-government “yes” side, participating in a video series that was launched by a group of athletes and celebrities to encourage the adoption of the charter amendments that will adorn the president with almost unrestricted powers.

In his video, Turan was recorded as responding to former football player and coach Rıdvan Dilmen’s call asking whether he is “in” for the amendments in the charter. 

“Our country is going through a very tough period; it is just like the War of Independence. We want a strong Turkey. For a strong Turkey, I am in for ‘yes,’” said Dilmen, seeking support from Turan. 

 In response, Turan said “Coach Rıdvan, I have received your call. For a strong Turkey, I am in as well.” 

He later directed the same question to another Turkish football player currently playing for Chinese side Beijing Guoan, Burak Yılmaz, asking for his contribution to the campaign.

On Jan. 21, Turkey’s parliament approved a constitutional amendment package that will bring drastic changes to Turkey’s political system.

The 18-article package, which shifts governance from the current parliamentary system to an executive presidential system, will be put to a referendum on either April 2 or 9 in accordance with the date selected by the Supreme Election Board (YSK) after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan approves the amendments.

On the “no” side, famous Turkish actress Meltem Cumbul, actor Levent Üzümücü, and author Ece Temelkuran were the early names to announce that they will vote against the amendments. 

Cumbul, who is currently serving as Turkish actors’ union (Oyuncular Sendikası) secretary general, shared a tweet on Jan. 24, saying that “for a bright Turkey, #no.” 

Üzümcü also shared a post on Twitter, announcing that he was against the amendments.  

“This has nothing to do with being partisan, being a leader, being a rightist or a leftist; for our children’s bright futures, #no,” said Üzümcü. 

On Jan. 21, Temelkuran shared a tweet of women singing to encourage a no vote, saying, “Young women of Turkey singing #NO #HAYIR to regime change ‘Enough is enough! We are here!’”

Meanwhile, a group of people raided the headquarters of a union in Ankara on Jan. 24, beating the private security personnel and chanting slogans against the union head after he objected to the constitutional amendments.

The crowd of 25 arrived at the building of the Public Employees Union (Kamu-Sen), entering inside despite the efforts of security personnel. The head of the union, İsmail Koncuk, had a talk with the representatives of the group, who threatened him while demanding that he resign. The group later left the scene. 

The attack came a couple of days after Koncuk made a “no” call against the charter amendments that will go to a referendum in April. Koncuk said he was against amendments that will bring a “system of one-man rule and disrupt the democratic parliamentary system and the division of powers.”  

Speaking after the attack, Koncuk said some people “must have sent them,” suggesting that the act was organized. Koncuk also said only the delegates who chose him could call on him to resign.  

Meanwhile, some former members of the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) condemned the act.

Former MHP deputy Koray Aydın said “Kamu-Sen is not an institution that will be silenced with another’s directive.” 

“Nobody has a right to divide a nationalist movement to bring about a freak partisan presidential system,” said Aydın.

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