Türkİye, Politics

Turkey votes in historic referendum

Millions head towards polling stations across the country, which open at 7am in east and 8am in other parts

Turkey votes in historic referendum ERZURUM, TURKEY - APRIL 16: A citizen gets his voting paper during the constitutional referendum at a polling station in Erzurum, Turkey on April 16, 2017. Turkish people head to the polls on Sunday to vote on the proposed change to a presidential system to replace the parliamentary democracy, with 18 articles proposed to be amended in the constitution. ( Fahrettin Gök - Anadolu Agency )


More than 55 million Turkish citizens began voting across the country on Sunday in a historic referendum proposing key constitutional changes, including giving wide-ranging executive powers to the president.

Citizens are casting their ballots at 167,000 polling stations nationwide. Over 1 million of them are first-time voters who recently turned 18.

Inmates -- except for the criminals who are convicted for intentional crime -- are also allowed to vote at 463 polling stations located inside state prisons. Prisoners, who are jailed and pending trial, and who are convicted for negligent crime, can vote in the referendum.

Although the Supreme Election Board has not publicly announced the exact number, according to a story in the Turkish national newspaper, Milliyet, there are currently 78,894 prisoners who were convicted and would be able to vote -- 127 percent more than in the Nov. 1 elections.

Sunday’s ballots have two sides with two different colors, and voters will indicate their choice by voting either Yes on the white side of the paper or No on the brown side. Voters will impress a seal on the side they have chosen.

Voters will then place the ballot inside a yellow envelope that has the symbol of the Turkish Republic's Supreme Election Board on it and cast their ballots.

Voting is taking place between 7 a.m. (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.

For the rest of the country, ballot boxes opened at 8 a.m. (0500GMT) and people would be allowed to vote until 5 p.m. (1400GMT).

The reason for the time difference is that the sun rises and sets earlier in the east of the country than in the west.


Content of the referendum

The electorate in Turkey is being asked to vote Yes or No to an 18-article reform bill, which would also change the current parliamentary system to a presidential one.

The Yes campaign is backed by the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party and the opposition, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), whereas the main opposition, Republican People's Party (CHP), is in favor of No.

The constitutional changes have been discussed since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was voted president in August 2014. This marked the first time a Turkish president had been directly chosen by popular vote.

The 18-article 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 the president would also be allowed to retain ties to a political party.

The other major changes include lowering the age to become a lawmaker to 18 from 25, increasing the number of seats in parliament from 550 to 600, closing down military courts, and same-day parliamentary and presidential elections every five years.

Simultaneous parliamentary and presidential elections for a five-year term would be held in November 2019 under the new constitution.

Approximately 2.9 million Turkish expatriates have already voted in the referendum between March 27 and April 9. This referendum is their fourth trip to the polls since expatriates were permitted to vote in Turkish elections while overseas.

The country’s current constitution was formed in 1983 following a military coup in 1980.

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