New poll suggests Turkish President Erdogan will lose referendum on executive powers by knife edge

Surveys conducted as voting begins in controversial vote that would expand president’s reach show a ‘no’ result ahead by just one per cent

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The Independent Online

Turkey’s April 16 referendum on whether to give sitting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan the ability to stay in office until 2029 will go down to the wire, the latest polling figures show.

Gezici Research, a respected polling outlet, has found that while the ‘no’ camp was ahead in January by 58 per cent to 42 per cent for ‘yes’, the gap had narrowed to just 51 per cent in favour of a ‘no’ vote as early voting began on Monday. 

The polling company found the change is partly due to the fact that 45 per cent of young voters (18 - 27) do not plan to vote at all. 

Hundreds of pro-Turkey protesters clash with police in Rotterdam

Out of 28 recent public opinion polls, 12 predict a ‘no’ vote and eight ‘yes’, news outlet T24 found - another finding that has given Mr Erdogan’s ruling AK party hopes of winning. 

Bekir Agirdir, the director of respected polling firm Konda, told Hurriyet newspaper on Monday that the race would be “neck and neck.”

The proposed changes to Turkey’s executive branches of government would effectively abolish the position of prime minister, giving the sitting president the power to appoint and fire ministers, hold the leadership of a political party while in office, and possibly stay in power for another 12 years. 

Mr Erdogan’s party argues that Turkey’s current fragile security situation needs strong leadership. Opponents, however, have already voiced fears that the president already holds too much power, and a ‘yes’ vote puts Turkey at risk of becoming an authoritarian state.

There has been a particular crackdown on members of the opposition, academics, journalists and rights activists since a failed military coup in July last year, after which the government declared a state of emergency.

Opposition politicians have also complained that the AK’s ‘yes’ campaign has received biased media coverage given the government’s influence over news outlets, making it difficult to put their side across. 

Regardless of the outcome of April’s nationwide vote, Mr Erdogan appears intent on pushing through other reforms to Turkey’s political landscape, suggesting last week that the country could hold another referendum on whether to quit its decades-long accession bid to the EU.

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