Ankara (AFP) – Prime Minister Binali Yildirim urged Turks to approve constitutional changes to boost President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powers on Saturday, saying it would make Turkey stronger.
Yildirim spoke at the ruling party’s first rally ahead of a key April 16 referendum, when the public will vote on whether to approve the changes creating an executive presidency.
“For a strong Turkey, lasting stability, our choice is ‘yes’. This is our wish, it will come,” Yildirim told the gathering in Ankara of party members and supporters from the country’s 81 provinces.
In the boisterous, packed arena, campaign songs floated over the flag-waving crowd with lyrics endorsing a “yes” vote as a tribute to the “July martyrs” killed during last year’s failed coup.
The coup featured heavily in another video screened ahead of his speech, with images of the victims also appearing on banners held by the audience.
Yildirim, upon arrival, handed out red carnations to supporters.
In his speech he insisted no one would be forced to back the changes, which the government says are necessary for political harmony but which critics fear will create one-man rule under Erdogan.
Under the new constitution, the president will have strengthened executive powers to directly appoint top public officials including ministers.
The post of prime minister would be replaced with one or more vice presidents.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu said the changes amounted to “regime…