ISTANBUL (AP) – The Latest on the referendum in Turkey, set to decide whether more power should be concentrated in the hands of the president (all times local):
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has lambasted foreign countries for attempting to influence Turkey’s historic referendum as he cast his vote in the southern province of Antalya.
Cavusoglu said some “from abroad” ”tried to tell the Turkish nation what to do. They took sides but today the decision belongs to our nation.”
He did not specify who he was referring to, but tensions have been high between Turkey and some European countries, particularly Germany and the Netherlands. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan branded both countries Nazis for not allowing Turkish ministers to campaign for a “yes” vote there.
The Netherlands withdrew Cavusoglu’s landing permission in March, barring him from addressing expatriate Turks there. Turkey said it would impose sanctions and halted high-level political discussions.
Polls opened Sunday in a crucial referendum on whether to increase presidential powers.
People were already lined up at an Istanbul polling station before it opened for Turkey’s historic referendum on whether to grant sweeping powers to the president’s office.
“We are here early to say ‘no’ for our country, for our children and grandchildren,” said retired tax officer Murtaza Ali Turgut. His wife Zeynep agreed, saying: “I was going to come sleep here last night to vote at first light.”
Another “no” voter, Husnu Yahsi, said: “I don’t want to get on a bus with no brake system. A one-man system is like that.”
In another Istanbul neighborhood, a “yes” voter expressed full support of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “Yes, yes, yes. Our leader is the gift of God to us. We will always support him. He’s governing so well,” Mualla Sengul said.
The first polling stations have opened in Turkey’s historic referendum on reforms that would concentrate power in the hands of the nation’s president.
The 18 constitutional changes would convert Turkey’s system of government from parliamentary to presidential, and abolish the office of the prime minister.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who called the referendum and has championed the “yes” campaign, says the proposed “Turkish style” presidential system will ensure the country no longer risks having weak governments. Opponents fear the change will lead to autocratic one-man rule, ensuring Erdogan, who has been accused of repressing rights and freedoms, could govern until 2029 with few checks and balances.
Polls in the east opened at 7 a.m. (0400 GMT), while those in the west are to open an hour later.