Vox-pops: Turkish voters weigh in before referendum

Al Jazeera speaks to Turkish voters about what to expect from the referendum that seeks to empower presidency.

Turkey- elections
Turkish voters will head to the polls to cast their vote in a milestone referendum on April 16 [Umut Uras/Al Jazeera]

Istanbul, Turkey – On April 16, Turkish voters will head to the polls to cast their vote in a milestone referendum that will determine how their country will be governed in the future.

The constitutional amendments proposed by the referendum would empower Turkey’s presidential office by setting up an executive presidential system.

The changes are backed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) founded by him and far-right Nationalist Action Party (MHP).

The amendments are opposed by various parties, including the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

Al Jazeera spoke to Turkish voters about their views on the constitutional changes and what they expect from this referendum.

Esma Yurt, 21, student
Esma Yurt, 21, student [Al Jazeera]
Esma Yurt, 21, student [Al Jazeera]

Our constitution is a stiff text made by a military junta who does not understand the language of the people. The constitutional changes will get rid of two military courts, making our constitution a more civil one.

I believe it is the right of the president, who will come to power with more than 50 percent of the public vote, to establish his or her own cabinet. He or she will take responsibility for the government’s policies, and [will] have moral responsibility for his or her actions. The president will be subject to prosecution for all sorts of crimes, not only treason any more.

The executive presidency will reflect the people’s views through social and economic policies executed in an efficient and fast manner.

I want young people to carry more responsibility for this country’s future. Therefore, I support the proposed change that seeks to decrease the age to become an MP to 18.

Sami Canokakin, 27, social media specialist
Sami Canokakin, 27, social media specialist [Al Jazeera]
Sami Canokakin, 27, social media specialist [Al Jazeera]

The government and President Erdogan want to transform how Turkey is governed. I believe these changes, which will change how we are viewed in the world, are against democratic principles.

The changes and the referendum are both unnecessary when Turkey has other issues to deal with. It makes our already polarised society further polarised and tense.

The bill that is put to referendum is a sloppy one, and I don’t believe it is going to live long even if it is passed.

We need a “No” in this referendum, so that the government hears the people’s voice and does not attempt to change the system again. I believe a weak “No” would make them try again. We need at least 55 percent of the vote.

Enes Arslan, 18, student
Enes Arslan, 18, student [Al Jazeera]
Enes Arslan, 18, student [Al Jazeera]

I want a stronger and more stable Turkey. Everything will be better if these changes are adopted. That is the reason why I will vote “Yes” in the referendum.

Western countries support the “No” vote because they want Turkey to be weaker. They do not want Turkey to get stronger. Even that is enough reason for me to determine the colour of my vote. The West is playing a game on Turkey and we want to spoil that game.

Turkey might be divided soon if we don’t change this system. The way forward is the new system put in front of us. If we don’t take this, Turkey cannot develop. This country got over a coup attempt and we need our country to be more secure.

I am happy that two nationalist parties of Turkey, the AK Party and MHP, are in alliance in this referendum.

Nermin Kayma, 62, retired teacher
Nermin Kayma, 62, retired teacher [Al Jazeera]
Nermin Kayma, 62, retired teacher [Al Jazeera]

I do not understand why this referendum is necessary. The AK Party has been ruling the country for 14 years now. What more do they want?

I am going to vote “No” in the referendum, because I want to live in a republic, not a monarchy. Turkey will lose its democracy if these changes are passed.

The Turkish economy is already going down and our freedoms are already restricted. A “Yes” vote would take both further down. Our freedoms will go down to zero and we will start living in a police state. The country would go backwards.

The government should hear the people’s voice in the case of a “No” vote. This will happen only if they have goodwill and I don’t think they do. They will try to change the system again if changes are rejected in this referendum. They will not stop.

Izzet Sahin, 65, pensioner
Izzet Sahin, 65, pensioner [Al Jazeera]
Izzet Sahin, 65, pensioner [Al Jazeera]

I am going to vote “Yes” in the referendum because of the successful policies and services our administration executed in the past, and for what they will do further for us in the future.

We remember the past times, where we did not get any services – in terms of healthcare, transportation, etc. Everything is better now. And it will keep improving with the proposed changes.

Turkey would lose a great chance of advancement if a “No” vote comes out of the referendum. We don’t want any coalition governments any more. We want stability and a strong government.

If the changes are passed, Turkey will be a totally independent country that will express itself better and stronger. It will be listened to, and well-respected, by other countries in the world.

Sengul Yidiz, 44, worker
Sengul Yidiz, 44, worker [Al Jazeera]
Sengul Yidiz, 44, worker [Al Jazeera]

I don’t want a one-man rule and a president affiliated with a political party. The government is talking about stability all the time. There is never going to be stability in this country without proper democracy and human rights.

A “No” vote will give hope to people of Turkey, make them feel secure and start a trend of positive changes. We hope the government would get the message and not push further to gain more power after the rejection of the constitutional changes.

A “Yes” vote will further weaken Turkish economy, which is very low on real production right now. And we will see days even worse than today.

I want people to live side by side as brothers and sisters, respecting each other. These proposed changes will make the country move in the exact opposite direction.

Hayati Centintas, 38, cook
Hayati Centintas, 38, cook [Al Jazeera]
Hayati Centintas, 38, cook [Al Jazeera]

Turkey is a major country in the Islamic world, which other Muslim countries look up to. The Islamic world is waiting for Turkey to lead them. And I want Turkey to lead the Islamic world and the new system will make it happen.

Turkey will be ruled by the majority, not the minorities. People will give the president the right to rule through elections and he will carry out the will of the people with the power provided to this position.

A strong, stable government will function as a shield against coup attempts, make the economy stronger and make Turkey attract more investments.

People trust this government and want the current environment of confidence to go on. If we don’t change the system, there will always be risks of coup attempts.

Cevdet Ersal, 59, pensioner
Cevdet Ersal, 59, pensioner [Al Jazeera]
Cevdet Ersal, 59, pensioner [Al Jazeera]

A “Yes” vote would create a kingdom out of this country, where one individual makes decisions for everything. One person will function as the whole government.

A president with such powers might make further arbitrary changes in Turkish laws at every level that will immensely affect our daily lives.

I don’t think the Turkish system is great and I agree that it needs changes. However, we do not need changes for the worse.

There are so many people who are normally supporters of the ruling party, but are not backing the amendments. These will vote “No” in the referendum. This fact should give a message to them.

Source: Al Jazeera