By Humeyra Atilgan Buyukovali and Ilker Girit
In a massive rally in Turkey’s biggest metropolis Saturday, Turkey's president began a huge final push for Yes votes in next weekend's referendum on key constitutional changes.
"Istanbulities, let the whole world hear your answer," Recep Tayyip Erdogan exhorted the crowd.
"Will you say yes for a strong and stabilized Turkey?"
Millions shouted “Yes!” while promising they would go to the polls on April 16 and vote in favor of a new constitution.
Crowds started to gather hours before the mega-rally in the city’s Yenikapi district, many carrying red and white Turkish flags.
A huge stage was erected on site, as well as oversize TV display screens and massive sound systems.
Air-supported security measures were out in force, and thousands were on duty to organize the event and perform other technical duties.
Stability and milestone
Speaking after Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, who is also the leader of the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party, Erdogan rallied Yes votes by asking the people:
"Are you ready to completely get rid of the terrorist organizations FETO, the PKK, Daesh, and the DHKP-C?"
The Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) is the group blamed for last July’s defeated coup, which martyred 249 people and left some 2,200 injured. The PKK’s decades-long terrorist campaign against Turkey has claimed some 40,000 lives.
Stressing how "significant" the referendum is for Turkey's future, Erdogan said the country's short-lived governments of the past were "signs of instability".
"If stability had been ensured, our development would have been twice what it is now," he said.
He also argued that some previous leaders from various political parties had favored a presidential system, "but they just could not start the change."
Calling on Turkish expats in Europe, Erdogan also said they should "definitely" go to the polls.
"April 16 will be a milestone," the president stressed.
‘We have protected democracy’
Also addressing the rally, Prime Minister Yildirim warned against those who used terror and economic crises "to hinder Turkey's path" in a “dark game”.
Yildirim evoked the defeated coup of last July and how the putschists "were plotting to assassinate the president, trying to destroy the government, bombing the nation's parliament."
"But they failed, they will not succeed," he said.
"We stood up against those who do not accept the choice of the people, we protected democracy," Yildirim added.
Next Sunday, Turkish voters will be asked to vote Yes or No to an 18-article constitutional reform bill which would shift the country from a parliamentary system of governance to a presidential one.
The Yes campaign is backed by the ruling AK Party and the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), while the main opposition Republican People's Party has conducted a No campaign.
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