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Turkish Opposition Leader Predicts Referendum Will Fail

Turkish opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu (file photo)

The leader of Turkey’s main opposition party has predicted the country will vote against increasing the powers of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in an April referendum.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, head of the Republican People's Party (CHP), told the AFP news agency on March 13 that the "No" vote would win because there have been "questions raised" even within Erdogan's own party about the proposed system.

"One person having this much power and influence would impose risks in the future for Turkey," Kilicdaroglu told AFP.

In the referendum, Turks will vote on constitutional changes that would eliminate the role of prime minister and allow the president to directly appoint public officials, including government ministers.

Erdogan says the changes are necessary to protect the country’s stability and would be similar to systems in the United States and France.

Critics, including many Western governments, say it would put too much power into one person’s hands and eliminate government checks and balances.

"We want to leave to our children a Turkey with a developed democracy, independent judiciary, a media free to draw and write whatever," Kilicdaroglu said.

"That's why we are saying 'No'."

Kilicdaroglu said the president would gain effective control over the judiciary and executive and legislative powers should the constitutional changes pass.

That, in effect, would mean the country was "abolishing democracy," he said.

War Of Words

Pro-government newspapers have published polls showing the "Yes" vote ahead, while opposition papers show the "No" side winning.

The effects of the campaign have spilled over into Western Europe.

Turkey and the Netherlands are embroiled in a war of words over the Dutch authorities' refusal to allow two Turkish government ministers from speaking at referendum-related rallies in Rotterdam.

Dutch police used horses and water cannon to break up about 1,000 Turkish demonstrators outside their country's consulate in Rotterdam.

Erdogan alleged that "Nazism is alive in the West" after the incident and vowed the Dutch would "pay the price" for their action.

On March 12, he accused the Netherlands of being a "banana republic" and called for sanctions against its fellow NATO member.

Erdogan also used the "Nazi" charge after several German municipalities canceled similar rallies.

The Netherlands is home to some 400,000 people of Turkish origin, while Germany is home to 1.4 million people eligible to vote in Turkey.

With reporting by AFP, AP, dpa, and Reuters
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