(Repeats story printed on Friday)

* Erdogan rides nationalist wave after coup, assaults

* ‘Yes’ vote forged as defending a “strong Turkey”

* ‘No’ campaigners say they’re smeared as traitors

* Official campaigning to start inside weeks

By Ercan Gurses and Ayhan Uyanik

ANKARA/ISTANBUL, Jan 27 Campaigning has not formally began, however a string of video “selfies” by the likes of sports activities stars, actors and cupboard ministers has already launched a divisive debate on plans that may hand Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan sweeping new powers.

His supporters see the transfer to interchange Turkey’s parliamentary democracy with an omnipotent presidency as a assure of stability at a time of turmoil. Opponents worry a lurch in direction of authoritarianism if an April referendum approves the change.

In a rustic the place mainstream information channels are saturated by Erdogan’s appearances and speeches by authorities ministers, and the place political demonstrations are tightly restricted, the battle for votes is more and more being waged on-line.

“Unfortunately the ‘No’ supporters don’t have much opportunity to get their message across on television channels or other media,” stated actor Baris Atay, who was castigated by pro-government newspapers for a social media video by which he says “no to one-man rule, fascism and dictatorship”.

“Saying ‘Yes’, siding with Erdogan, and being a nationalist is thinking of the country’s future, but saying ‘No’ is being a provocateur, a traitor and a terrorist – this is the perception they’re trying to establish,” he informed Reuters.

Atay’s video was re-tweeted 23,000 instances.

Against a backdrop of bombings by Islamic State and Kurdish militants, a failed coup final July, and the sharpest financial slowdown in virtually a decade, Erdogan has forged Turkey as beneath assault and in want of stronger management.

The reform would allow the president to challenge decrees, declare emergency rule, appoint ministers and senior state officers and dissolve parliament – powers that the 2 fundamental opposition events say strip away balances to Erdogan’s energy.

His supporters dismiss such claims and see the difficulty as a take a look at of patriotism.

“Our homeland, our country is passing through a very tough period. A veritable war of independence. We want a strong Turkey. For a strong Turkey, yes, I am in,” Ridvan Dilmen, the nation’s best-known soccer pundit, stated in a video message on Twitter, triggering a sequence of superstar reactions.

“Coach Ridvan, I got your call. I’m in for a strong Turkey too,” stated soccer star Arda Turan, who performs for Barcelona, in the same put up, drawing 10,000 re-tweets within the soccer-mad nation.


Erdogan assumed the presidency, a largely ceremonial place, in 2014 after greater than a decade as prime minister with the ruling AK Party, which he co-founded. Since then, pushing his powers to the restrict, he has dominated politics by dint of his private recognition.

Opponents accuse him of accelerating authoritarianism with the arrests and dismissal of tens of hundreds of judges, cops, troopers, journalists and teachers for the reason that failed coup.

Erdogan is predicted within the coming days to formally approve the constitutional reform invoice handed by parliament this month that may pave the best way for the referendum, more likely to be held on one of many first two Sundays in April.

He was quoted on Friday as saying campaigning would formally begin on Feb. 7. But Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Energy Minister Berat Albayrak, Erdogan’s son-in-law, have already posted selfie movies.

“We’re in too for a powerful Turkey,” Prime Minister Binali Yildirim chanted with members of the ladies’s wing of the AK Party in one other video on Twitter.

Pollsters are divided on how the referendum will play out, although many agree the stance of the nationalist MHP opposition will probably be key. The AKP has been drumming up nationalist help whereas the MHP has been divided by a bitter management row.

“According to our latest polls, two thirds of MHP voters are in the ‘Yes’ camp,” stated Mehmet Ali Kulat, head of pollster Mak Danismanlik, which is seen as near Erdogan.

Hakan Bayrakci of polling agency SONAR disagreed, forecasting a robust majority of MHP supporters would vote ‘No’.

The MHP final yr expelled three of its members who tried to oust veteran chief Devlet Bahceli. They oppose the constitutional reform, whereas Bahceli backs it.


The secularist opposition CHP strongly opposes the adjustments. So does the pro-Kurdish HDP, the second largest opposition get together. But a ‘No’ marketing campaign by the HDP might assist Erdogan by rallying nationalist help behind him.

Nationalists view the HDP as deeply tied to the Kurdish PKK militant group and have championed the prosecution beneath Erdogan of hundreds of its members for suspected militant hyperlinks.

That has made the CHP reluctant to marketing campaign on a shared platform with the pro-Kurdish opposition, Ozgur Ozel, a deputy chairman for the CHP, informed Reuters, fearing it might undermine help.

“The ‘No’ side is like a rainbow hosting all colours. There shouldn’t be too many party symbols, just slogans, emblems, phrases and symbols that have been agreed upon,” he stated.

The final time Turkey’s disparate opposition teams tried to forge such unity was throughout anti-government protests in 2013. Those demonstrations in the end strengthened Erdogan, who used them to rally supporters and expose opposition splits.

For now, the ‘No’ marketing campaign is essentially combating again on-line, with soccer followers significantly vocal.

“For a free, equal and secular country we say NO,” stated the Twitter account of Sol Acik, a bunch of leftist supporters of Istanbul’s Fenerbahce soccer membership. Similar messages adopted from followers of its Istanbul rivals Galatasaray and Besiktas.

Another video shared broadly on social media confirmed college students singing a well-liked music with different lyrics on an Istanbul ferry, mocking Erdogan’s insurance policies and calling for a ‘No’ vote.

It additionally confirmed police ready on the quayside and making an attempt to detain them as they docked, earlier than different passengers persuaded them to not. (Additional reporting by Gulsen Solaker and Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara, Daren Butler in Istanbul; Writing by Nick Tattersall, modifying by Peter Millership and Giles Elgood)

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