By Nurhan Corlu and Hatice Senses Kurukiz
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cast his vote in the constitutional referendum in Sunday and said he believed in the people’s sense of democracy.
Erdogan voted alongside his wife Emine and close family members, including his grandchildren, in Istanbul.
“This April 16 referendum is not an ordinary voting [process],” he said after casting his ballot, adding that he would follow the outcome from Istanbul.
“We have had many parliamentary elections in our history as a republic. In the meantime, we have also had referendums.
“However, this referendum is a decision on a new administrative system, a change and a transformation in the Republic of Turkey. I hope our people will make a decision to pave the way for a quick development... We need to grow quicker and walk faster.”
The electorate is voting Yes or No to an 18-article proposal that could see Turkey switch from a parliamentary to a presidential system.
The ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) have backed the changes while the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Democratic Peoples’ Party (HDP) have campaigned against it.
Erdogan added: “I believe our people will walk towards the future by making their expected decisions and by casting their votes inside [Turkey] and overseas. I believe in our people’s common sense of democracy and that they will walk towards the future though this common sense.”
CHP Chairman Kemal Kilicdaroglu stressed the importance of the referendum vote.
“We are voting for Turkey’s destiny today,” he told reporters in Ankara after voting.
“Hopefully, we will get a beneficial outcome and together we will have a chance to discuss Turkey’s other main problems.”
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim voted in western Izmir province. “Whatever the outcome, it will get a red carpet treatment,” he told journalists after casting his ballot. “The decision of our people is always the best decision.”
In Antalya, southern Turkey, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also stressed the importance of the referendum after casting his vote.
“Our people will decide Turkey’s future today,” he said. “I think this day is an important turning point in the country’s future.”
Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus, who voted in Istanbul, called for people to turn out in numbers.
“We hope everyone casts their vote,” he said. “A high participation means people defend their democracy, the popular will and the future.”
Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag, who voted in central Yozgat province, said: “Everyone has spoken so far. Today, it is our people’s turn to speak.”
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, who voted in the Black Sea province of Trabzon, said the poll had been carried out in a “peaceful” atmosphere.
“It is the most peaceful election of recent years in Turkey, according to the recent information that we’ve got this morning,” he said.
Defense Minister Fikri Isik told reporters in northwestern Kocaeli province: “I believe the participation in this referendum will be around 90 percent.”
55 million voters
Voting in Ankara, MHP leader Devlet Bahceli described the referendum as an “important turning point in peoples’ lives.”
He added that politics in Turkey would be “remodelled” in the event of a Yes victory.
Osman Baydemir, spokesman for the HDP, said he hoped “democracy, freedom and our country will win” as a result of the referendum.
More than 55 million people are eligible to vote at 167,000 polling stations nationwide. Over one million are first-time voters who recently turned 18.
Voting is taking place between 7 a.m. local time (0400GMT) and 4 p.m. (1300GMT) in Turkey's eastern provinces of Adiyaman, Agri, Artvin, Bingol, Bitlis, Diyarbakir, Elazig, Erzincan, Erzurum, Gaziantep, Giresun, Gumushane, Hakkari, Kars, Malatya, Kahramanmaras, Mardin, Mus, Ordu, Rize, Siirt, Sivas, Trabzon, Tunceli, Sanliurfa, Van, Bayburt, Batman, Sirnak, Ardahan, Igdir and Kilis.
In the rest of the country, ballot boxes opened at 8 a.m. (0500GMT) and will close at 5 p.m. (1400GMT).
Adopting a presidential system has climbed the political agenda since Erdogan was voted president in August 2014 -- the first time a president has been directly chosen by popular vote.
The reform bill was passed by parliament in January, with 339 votes in favor -- nine more than needed to put the proposal to a referendum.
The reforms would extend the president's executive powers and allow him or her to retain ties to a political party.
The other major changes include lowering the age for lawmakers to 18 from 25, increasing the number of seats in parliament from 550 to 600, closing down military courts and introducing same-day parliamentary and presidential elections every five years.
* Anadolu Agency correspondents Serdar Aci, O. Bugra Ersavas and Erdal Celikel in Ankara; Tolga Albay in Izmir; Ayse Yildiz and Mustafa Kurt in Antalya; Ali Ozdemir in Yozgat; Tugba Yardimci in Trabzon; and Kadir Yildiz in Kocaeli contributed to this report.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.