‘Yes’ or ‘no,’ Turkey will continue on its path after vote: PM Yıldırım

Turkey will continue on its path regardless of who wins the April 16 referendum on controversial charter amendments, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said Feb. 22.

“Either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ could prevail in the referendum. If the ‘no’ votes prevail, we will continue,” Yıldırım told a group of journalists in a meeting at the Çankaya Mansion in Ankara on Feb. 22, adding that “the country won’t be divided” by either result.

“Regardless of whether it’s a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ result, the country won’t be divided. Nothing will happen. The biggest danger was July 15. We saw what people could do on July 15. The people, with the youth and the elderly, went out on the streets and put their lives on the line against the traitors,” he said, referring to the July 15, 2016, failed coup, which is widely believed to have been masterminded by the government’s erstwhile ally, the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ).

Turkey will hold the referendum to decide whether to change the government system into an executive presidency with vastly enhanced powers for the president or to protect the current parliamentary system.

Asked when the discourse on “naysayers are terrorists” had been changed, Yıldırım said, “only a part of his speeches had been taken.” “What I’m saying is this; the terrorist organizations are campaigning for a ‘no’ vote. The CHP [main opposition Republican People’s Party] shouldn’t make them happy by joining them. This was what I said initially. The people can vote ‘yes’ or ‘no;’ they can do whatever they want. We are not the ones to decide on which vote the citizens will give and if there was such a thing, then there wouldn’t be a referendum. The best part of democracy is the fact that the last decision is given by citizens,” he said.

Noting that they “brought the offer to citizens,” Yıldırım said the rest was up to the electorate.

“As the deputies, we brought the offer to citizens. Our duty is limited to that. The rest is up to citizens and the electorate. One has to be fair there,” he added.

The “yes” vote in the referendum is endorsed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). The CHP and the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) have stated that they are on the “no” side.

Noting that he does not rely on polls “unless he does them himself,” Yıldırım said everyone would learn what will happen on April 16.

“We accept whatever the people will vote for with great pleasure. That’s what’s meaningful for us,” he added.

During the meeting, Yıldırım said they were defending the executive presidential system but that the CHP wanted to strengthen the parliamentary system.

“Both could’ve happened. I told [CHP leader Kemal] Kılıçdaroğlu to bring both to the public, but he didn’t want to,” he said.

When asked what he thinks about Kılıçdaroğlu’s statements on the possible partition of the country if the move is endorsed, Yıldırım said he also made that statement and received criticism from the CHP leader for doing so.

“I also said, ‘If the ‘yes’ doesn’t prevail, then the country will be divided.’ Kılıçdaroğlu raised hell over it. There is, unfortunately, a double standard here. The reason I made that statement was this: The country will be stronger and so we will be able to safeguard our unity more easily,” he said.

Commenting on the CHP’s campaign, Yıldırım said their campaign seemed to have softened.

“It looks like the CHP softened its campaign. I think one should be inclusive and not polarize people. It’s a good development that there are no discourses that the people don’t like and deserve. In democracy and the protection of the unity of the people, I think these [inclusive] discourses are more appropriate, but I don’t know how long that will last,” he said.

During the meeting, Yıldırım also criticized the CHP for using the “İzmir March.”

“It’s wrong that they are using the İzmir March in the campaign. It’s a song that everybody loves. It includes [the founder of modern Turkey Mustafa Kemal] Atatürk,” he added.

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