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Final rallies in Turkey ahead of referendum

Saturday, April 15, 2017 - 02:07

Turkey's Erdogan - and his opposers - make final push ahead of Sunday's referendum, which could see the president gain sweeping powers. Saskia O'Donoghue reports.

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The Turkish president appealing for support from voters in final campaign rallies Saturday, on the eve of a referendum which could tighten his grip over a country bridging the divided European Union and a conflict-strewn Middle East. And Recep Tayyip Erdogan could be in luck. Opinion polls have given a narrow lead for a "Yes" vote in Sunday's referendum. If successful, the campaign will aim to replace Turkey's parliamentary democracy with an all-powerful presidency. Erdogan saying it's a move necessary to confront the security and political challenges Turkey faces. Reuters' Nick Tattersall says, regardless of the outcome, Erdogan will continue to seek more power. (SOUNDBITE) NICK TATTERSALL, REUTERS BUREAU CHIEF, TURKEY (English) "Well, in some ways, this is the ultimate test of Erdogan's popularity. If the result is a 'no' vote, he's unlikely to simply back down and accept that he can't continue ruling in the way that he has been. What we would probably see would be an early election, an attempt to strengthen the power of the ruling party in parliament and then, potentially, another referendum further down the line." Opponents say a 'yes' vote would be disastrous and mark a step towards even greater authoritarianism in a country where 40,000 people were arrested and 120,000 sacked or suspended from their jobs in a crackdown following a failed coup attempt against the president last July. Despite being criticised by the EU and Western leaders for his tough response, Erdogan shows no sign of slowing down the purge. At a rally Saturday, he told supporters that the country must 'finish what it started' - referring to the crackdown. Some 55 million people are eligible to vote on Sunday. If the 'yes' campaign is successful, a package of 18 amendments would abolish the office of prime minister, give the president authority to draft the budget and declare a state of emergency. Whatever the outcome, Turkey is - and may well remain - at a crossroads.

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Final rallies in Turkey ahead of referendum

Saturday, April 15, 2017 - 02:07