Turkey's referendum: millions of voters with myriad views

20 PHOTOS
Turkey's referendum
See Gallery
Turkey's referendum
Web-editor Mustafa Goktas, 47, who says he will vote 'Yes', poses in a park in Istanbul, Turkey April 7, 2017. "I am a religious conservative. Erdogan is like us. He understands us. He understands our needs. He is the man of the nation." REUTERS/Umit Bektas 
Retired banker Mehmet Emin Erelvanli, 62, who says he will vote 'No', poses in a crowded street in Cesme, a town in Izmir province, Turkey April 8, 2017. "Journalists are being jailed. He appoints ministers, judges, prosecutors, university rectors etc. He already has enough power but is still asking for more. If this goes on, it will end very badly," Erelvanli said. REUTERS/Umit Bektas 
Housewife Pinar Ayyildiz Ozen, 41, who says she will vote 'Yes', poses in her kitchen in Cesme a town in Izmir province, Turkey April 8, 2017. "Erdogan is a reliable leader, he means a lot for Turkey. In the past, it was difficult to buy a washing machine. Now when one is broken, we buy a new one rather than have the old one repaired. If Erdogan rules for another 10 years, it would be good. Erdogan is the leader of the Muslim world." REUTERS/Umit Bektas 
Housewife Pinar Ayyildiz Ozen, 41, who says she will vote 'Yes', poses in her kitchen in Cesme a town in Izmir province, Turkey April 8, 2017. "Erdogan is a reliable leader, he means a lot for Turkey. In the past, it was difficult to buy a washing machine. Now when one is broken, we buy a new one rather than have the old one repaired. If Erdogan rules for another 10 years, it would be good. Erdogan is the leader of the Muslim world." REUTERS/Umit Bektas 
Mayor of Umraniye district of Istanbul and founder member of ruling AK Party Hasan Can, 63, poses in his office in Istanbul, Turkey, April 7, 2017. He says he will vote 'Yes' in the referendum. "The current system promotes instability. We need stable and decisive development. If the change that is planned with this referendum is approved, no one will be able to stand against Turkey. All our problems will be solved. Unemployment and terrorism will be solved." REUTERS/Umit Bektas 
Housewife Merve Songur, 37, who says she will vote 'Yes' in the referendum, poses on a main street in Istanbul, Turkey April 7, 2017. "I will say 'Yes' because all these changes are necessary for the good of this country. Erdogan is a real leader, to love him is different from any other kind of love. The European Union has double standards; they think Muslims are terrorists." REUTERS/Umit Bektas 
Retired teacher Melek Algin Iyidinc, 60, who says she will vote No in the referendum, poses in her garden in Artvin, Turkey, April 4, 2017. "I am a socialist and atheist. I have never voted for the AK Party. "Erdogan is not a person who settles with the power he has. He is an authoritarian, always asking for more power. There should be a point at which the people of this country stop this. The referendum gives us this opportunity. It's time to say no," Iyidinc said. She said that Turkey's biggest problems are the lack of democracy, the economy and the environment: "The government recently gave license to mining companies to dig our green forests. It is going to cause a big environmental disaster. Only when these mining projects are cancelled can I have hope again for our future." REUTERS/Umit Bektas 
Armen Demirjiyan, a bookseller and member of a small Armenian community in largely Kurdish Diyarbakir, 55, poses in front of old books in Diyarbakir, Turkey, April 6, 2017. "I am a leftist. I will vote for 'No'. One man should not rule the country," he said. Belonging to Turkey's Armenian community raises different issues for Demirjiyan. "I discovered that I was Armenian when I was 27 years old. My uncle said it at my father's funeral. The AK Party did not do enough for Armenians. Armenian schools are still teaching according to the Turkish system. Turkey's biggest problem is that it does not recognise the Armenian massacre as genocide. If Turkey continues this way, it will be like Syria. Turkey must be a member of the EU." Turkey accepts that many Armenians died in partisan fighting during World War One, but denies that up to 1.5 million were killed and that this constituted an act of genocide, a term used by many Western historians and foreign parliaments. REUTERS/Umit Bektas 
Associate Professor of Pathology and Doctor Sevdegul Aydin Mungan, 40, poses in her laboratory in a university hospital in Trabzon, Turkey, April 5, 2017. She says she will vote 'Yes'. "I am a humanist and a patriot. I had serious problems because of my headscarf while I was a student and then as an academic at the university hospital. I had friends wearing headscarves who left school and had mental problems. I am grateful to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan because under his rule I was aware again that I was human. I had the right to work with clothes that expressed my way of being. Erdogan is in love with his nation. If 'Yes' wins, we will become a more respectful and powerful country. But some countries are not comfortable with Turkey becoming more powerful." REUTERS/Umit Bektas 
Shop owner Ilter Etike, 31, who says he will vote 'Yes' in the referendum, poses in his shop where he sells souvenirs in Cesme a town in Izmir province, Turkey April 8, 2017. "Erdogan is a political genius. I love him. For democracy, these changes are necessary. If Turkey says 'Yes' in the referendum, there will be stability and it will help to solve the PKK problem. Once this is solved, Turkey will become one of the 10 biggest economies of the world within 10 years." REUTERS/Umit Bektas 
Hotel owner Aynur Sullu, 49, who says she will vote 'Yes', poses in her hotel's reception in Cesme a town in Izmir province, Turkey April 8, 2017. "I am modern, rightist, nationalist and Kemalist. Under the rule of the AK party, we are stronger. We have a better economy, and better health and education systems. It is a big lie that there is an unemployment problem. We have freedoms. Anyone can drink raki or swim in a bikini. And now women with headscarves have freedom too." She said the European Union supports terrorism: "Only because of the difficulties created by other countries and our opposition parties did we not manage to solve the terrorism problem." REUTERS/Umit Bektas 
A retired manufacturer and head of an Alevi association Muzaffer Aksakal, 65, poses in his association's cafe in Istanbul, Turkey April 10, 2017. Aksakal describes himself as being "socialist and secular". He says he will vote 'No' in the referendum. "If the 'Yes' wins, parliament will be useless and the right to declare war or peace will be in the hands of a single man." Aksakal belongs to the Alevi religious minority, which make up about 15-20 percent of Turkey's 80 million people. Alevis draw from Shi'ite, Sufi and Anatolian folk traditions and practice distinct rituals which can put them at odds with their Sunni Muslim counterparts, many of whom accuse them of heresy. "Erdogan government always follows racist politics. Alevis are under pressure. The system ignores the Alevis." REUTERS/Umit Bektas 
Galatasaray University student Pelin Isilak, 19, who says she will vote 'No', poses in an old bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey, April 10, 2017. "I am against Erdogan but would also be against my father if he asked for so much power." REUTERS/Umit Bektas 
Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) MP Didem Engin, 39, poses during a referendum campaign event in Istanbul, Turkey April 10, 2017. Engin campaigns for the 'No' vote. "The ruling party wants to raise a religious generation but we need a generation that innovates and questions." REUTERS/Umit Bektas 
Food vendor Adil Aydin, 47, who says he will vote 'Yes', poses in his shop in Diyarbakir, Turkey, April 6, 2017. "I will vote 'Yes' but it's not from my heart. I will vote 'Yes' because there isn't any leader who could rule better than Erdogan... In the past other countries didn� care about what Turkey's leader said, but now they are all listening to Erdogan." Aydin added that if he was in power, he would curtail all relations with the European Union. He said that it's a shame that a Turkish court banned the 'No' campaign song of pro-Kurdish opposition party HDP. "Turkey's biggest problem is the Kurdish problem. If it were solved, nothing would stop Turkey." REUTERS/Umit Bektas 
Cleaner and farmer Fatma Peker, 58, says she will vote 'Yes' in the referendum. She poses in her tea field in Surmene a town in Trabzon Province, Turkey, April 4, 2017. "I love my President Tayyip Erdogan very much. He is powerful and a Muslim. Our biggest challenge is terrorism. Germany, the Netherlands, England, the United States - they all support the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). While they are torturing Muslims, they allow PKK members to do whatever they want, she said. Peker concluded: "In 10 years time, Turkey will be the strongest country in the world." REUTERS/Umit Bektas 
Restaurant owner Haluk Ozakin, 32, who says he will vote 'No' in the referendum, poses in his business in Diyarbakir, Turkey, April 6, 2017. He says he was working for Diyarbakir municipality but was fired when pro-Erdogan parties took control of it. "I will say 'No' because there is a war environment in this country. There is a lot of violent pressure on us... Erdogan is a cunning man. The people who are voting 'Yes' don� even know what are they voting for. Our biggest problem is the absence of democracy and this war environment." REUTERS/Umit Bektas
Fisherman Cengiz Topcu, 57, who says he will vote 'No' in the referendum, poses in his boat in Rize on the Black Sea coast, Turkey, April 5, 2017. "I am a patriot. In the past Erdogan was a good man but recently he has changed in a bad way. I want a democracy, not the rule of one man. Systems ruled by one person lead to military coups," Topcu said. He thought that Turkey's biggest problems are unemployment and terror. He is also concerned about the environment, "In the past, there were lots fish in the Black Sea, but now it is polluted. The chemicals from the factories along the rivers pollute the rivers and these rivers carry the poison to the sea. There are no more fish around." REUTERS/Umit Bektas 
Businesswoman Dilsat Gulsevim Arinc, 68, who says she will vote 'No' in the referendum, poses in her cafe in Cesme, in Izmir province, Turkey April 8, 2017. She defines herself as "modern and a Kemalist". "I don't want someone to rule us like a sultan on his throne. I don't think a 'No' result in the referendum will stop Erdogan but it would be a useful lesson for him. He is too authoritarian. If things go on like this, it will not take more than 10 years for Turkey to come to an end." REUTERS/Umit Bektas 
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

ANKARA, April 12 (Reuters) - There are only two options on the ballot – "yes" or "no" – but tens of millions of Turks will cast their votes in a referendum on Sunday with a myriad of motives.

The referendum could bring about the biggest change to Turkey's system of governance since the founding of the modern republic almost a century ago, replacing its parliamentary system with an executive presidency.

The question on the ballot paper may be about the constitution, but looming large is the figure of President Tayyip Erdogan, who could win sweeping powers and stay in office until 2029 if the changes are approved.

Polls show a close race, with a slight lead for "yes." But the vote may yield surprises.

"I'm a patriot," said Cengiz Topcu, 57, a fisherman in Rize on the Black Sea coast, Erdogan's ancestral home town where his supporters are among the most fervent. Topcu is voting "no."

"In the past, Erdogan was a good man but then he changed for the worse. I want a democracy: not the rule of one man," he told Reuters in his boat.

The proposed changes, Erdogan and his supporters say, will make Turkey stronger at a time when the country faces security threats from both Islamist and Kurdish militants.

Violence has flared in the largely Kurdish southeast since the collapse of a ceasefire between the state and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in 2015, and parts of the region have long been strongholds of opposition to Erdogan.

But Hikmet Gunduz, 52, a street vendor in the main regional city of Diyarbakir, hopes his "yes" vote will help bring peace.

"I like President Erdogan's character. He is a bit angry and a bit authoritarian but his heart is full of love."

FREEDOMS

Erdogan, arguably modern Turkey's most popular but divisive politician, has long cast himself as the champion of ordinary, pious Turks exploited by a secular elite.

Although a majority Muslim country, Turkey is officially secular and the headscarf was long banned in the civil service and in universities until Erdogan's Islamist-rooted AK Party overturned that restriction.

Aynur Sullu, a 49-year-old hotel owner in the Aegean coastal city of Izmir, a bastion of the secularist opposition, said she planned to vote "yes," dismissing suggestions that Erdogan's Islamist ideals were encroaching on people's private lives.

"Anyone can drink raki or swim with a bikini freely," she said, referring to the alcoholic drink favored by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern secular republic. "Also, now women with headscarves have freedom."

Businesswoman Dilsat Gulsevim Arinc, however, said Erdogan was acting like a sultan and hoped her "no" vote would help teach him a "useful lesson."

"He is too authoritarian," said the 68-year-old cafe owner in Cesme, an Aegean resort town. "If things go on like this, I think Turkey will be finished in the next 10 years."

(Writing by Isabel Coles; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Louise Ireland)

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.