Poll shows most Turks back reforms

Survey indicates 56.8 per cent of Turks will vote "yes" to proposed constitutional amendments in referendum on Sunday.

    A clear majority of Turks are prepared to vote "yes" in a referendum on constitutional amendments proposed by the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, a survey has shown.

    The Konda Institute, which conducted the survey, said on Saturday that the reforms, including controversial changes to the judiciary, would garner 56.8 per cent of support in the plebiscite on Sunday.

    However, the poll also showed that a good number of Turks remain undecided about the referendum, which is seen as an important gauge of support for Erdogan's Justice and Development (AP) party before a parliamentary election next year.

    Konda said 17.6 per cent of the electorate remained undecided ahead of the vote.

    Tarhan Erdem, head of the Konda Institute, said voting in the referendum would mostly follow party loyalties.

    "The lack of a strong party other than AKP is a major shortcoming of Turkish politics.... falling opposition to the reforms is due to a decrease in support for the CHP," he told the Reuters news agency, referring to the opposition Republican People's Party.

    Polls earlier this week suggested that the vote was too close to call, with one predicting a narrow defeat for the package and another suggesting it would pass by the flimsiest of margins.

    Andrew Finkel, a journalist based in Istanbul, agreed that it was a tight call.

    "It is going to be rather difficult to predict the outcome of this vote; some of the polls are showing the 'yes's' and 'no's' are running 'even stevens', and the 'yes's' seem to have a slight edge on the 'no's', but, I think people are prepared to be surprised," Finkel told Al Jazeera.

    "Some people would like to see a sort of narrow win for the 'yes' [...] I think a lot of people see the package as being in Turkey's interest, but are reluctant to give an open endorsement to a government who has been in power for eight years."

    EU hopes

    Erdogan has said that the reforms will bring the constitution, drafted after a 1980 military coup, closer in line with those of the European Union, which Turkey seeks to join, but Finkel said this is an unlikely prospect.

    "The current constitution was written in 1982, when Turkey was under martial law [and] it was promulgated by a military government and most Turks sense that this is not a document that will get them into the European Union.

    "I think that people have really forgotten the issue of the constitution in the run up to this referendum debate [...] it has become very much a referendum, not on the constitutional package, but on the government itself," Finkel said.

    Among the 26 articles comprising the package, are changes in the way senior judges are selected.

    Opposition parties, including the CHP secularists, argue that these will enable the government to exert more influence over the judiciary.

    Defeat in the referendum would damage the ruling party's morale before a parliamentary election due by July 2011.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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