Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş vowed a democratic referendum environment for both sides amid a fractious debate on charter amendments that could usher in an executive presidency.
“Everyone will reveal their stance, ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ clearly during the campaign. No one should doubt that it will be a democratic race. It will be an open, transparent democratic race,” Kurtulmuş said Feb. 6.
His comments came after Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said the camp opposing the constitutional change was composed of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), asking voters to decide on their stance accordingly.
“Why do we say ‘yes?’ We say ‘yes’ because the PKK says ‘no.’ We say ‘yes’ because FETÖ says ‘no.’ We say ‘yes’ because HDP says ‘no,’” Yıldırım said Feb. 5.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Group Deputy Chairperson Özgür Özel criticized Yıldırım’s comments, saying the prime minister was accusing all the people who have a particular stance on the constitutional amendment of being a terrorist.
“[The people] will say ‘how dare you call half of the people a terrorist?’” Özel said Feb. 5.
“The fact that the prime minister is listing terrorist organizations and saying ‘look at the ‘no’ camp’ and asking people to say ‘yes’ accordingly shows their helplessness,” Özel added.
Kurtulmuş said the referendum would be held in a democratic environment.
“The existence of a referendum ballot indicates the strength of Turkish democracy. Some will say ‘yes,’ some will say ‘no.’ All the groups who will say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ will explain why they are saying say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ with their own perspective,” Kurtulmuş said.
“It is not an election of a political party. It is not a political party entering an election. Different parties are expressing their opinion for a ‘yes’ vote, as is the case for ‘no,’” he said.
Kurtulmuş also said the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) would carry out a positive campaign.
“Our slogans are ‘our decision is yes,’ ‘yes for a new Turkey,’ ‘yes for a strong Turkey.’ Throughout the campaign, we will explain ‘yes.’ And we already see that a majority of our public will vote for it,” he said.
The constitutional draft which passed in parliament on Jan. 20 has been submitted to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for presidential approval.
Despite the rumors suggesting the president may decline some of the articles, Kurtulmuş said they believed the president would approve the 18-article charter.
“It is our president’s own will. In our opinion, the president will approve the 18 articles and the date of the referendum will be settled,” Kurtulmuş said.
The referendum will be officially held within 60 days of the president’s approval of the charter.