Turkey: Two days before referendum on executive presidency

The countdown starts for the Sunday’s key referendum to decide on whether to change the constitution for an executive presidency with a neck to neck race between “nay” and “yea” sayers, but undecided voters may be the determinant of poll results, according to local analysts.

A recent survey conducted on April 12 shows a close race, putting the Yes vote slightly ahead with 52.5 percent after the distribution of undecided voters, Ozer Sencar, chairman of the pollster Metropoll told Xinhua.

Turkish electorate will go to polls to vote Yes or No for an 18-article charter change that would shift the existing parliamentary system to an executive presidency, which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said will increase stability in Turkey.

But the some nine percent of the voters still undecided could determine the fate of the referendum, the analyst said, stressing that some of those undecided votes may not go to polls, but they are not at a point when their behavior is foreseeable.

If the nine percent undecided among Turkey’s approximately 56 million voters tends toward Yes or No vote, they would swing the balance on referendum results, Sencar said.

As President Erdogan has appeared at the campaign stage for Yes on charter change, which will extend his powers, he reversed the halting momentum of the Yes campaign.

Sencar underlines his personal influence on voters, with rhetoric attacking at the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) that leads the naysayers, has increased Yes votes.

Erdogan uses stinging rhetoric to appeal to Turkish nationalists and ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). The Yes campaign is backed by the AKP and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

“Erdogan uses method of polarization in each election. He designs his rhetoric on the grounds of this polarization. He intentionally does not get into the specifics of the constitutional changes brought to the people,” Sencar said while elaborating on the campaign arguments which falls away from genuine constitution change discussions.

Thereby, the president consolidated some of traditional AKP voter bases with an increase from 87 percent to 91 percent in April, the analyst said.

A recent survey by pollster KONDA on April 13 indicates seven percent increase in Yes votes after President Erdogan took the field to campaign in February.

KONDA predicts 51.5 Yes vote against 48.5 No vote with a participation of 90 percent Turkish citizens.

Meanwhile, a crisis with the Europe after the banning of some rallies by Turkish ministers in the Netherlands and Germany on security grounds has worked for the increase of Yes campaign, Sencar stated.

“There is an amazing explosion of votes abroad. Around 1.42 million votes have been cast,” Erdogan said on Tuesday. Some 2.88 million voters were registered abroad in the last general election in November 2015.

Naysayers are lacking any single leader, with the main opposition CHP and the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) the two main political parties at the parliament backing No votes.

While the HDP has strong grassroots among Turkey’s Kurdish voters, who make up at least one fifth of the population, some conservative Kurdish voters remain undecided.