A ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) local branch representative said if the party cannot get the support of 50 percent of the people in a referendum to be held on April 16, party members should get ready for a civil war.
“If we cannot pass 50 percent and fail in the referendum, get ready for a civil war. We should know that either from among us or from outside of us, the cards will be reshuffled and the plotting will start all over again,” said Ozan Erdem, deputy head of the AKP’s Manisa provincial office, during a party gathering in Soma, in a video shared by the Cumhuriyet daily on Wednesday.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the AKP are pursuing an aggressive propaganda policy ahead of the referendum.
“April 16 will at the same time be an answer for July 15. It will be an important move against July 15. The position of naysayers is taking sides with July 15. Nobody should derive a different meaning from this,” said President Erdoğan last week while talking about the referendum on constitutional amendments that will open the way to a switch from a parliamentary system of governance to an executive presidency.
In a previous statement, Erdoğan as well as Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım accused the potential naysayers in the referendum of taking sides with terrorist organizations.
Under government pressure, Turkey’s Doğan Media Group fired Posta daily columnist Hakan Çelenk and Kanal D presenter İrfan Değirmenci because they voiced opposition to the executive presidency system for which President Erdoğan is seeking public approval.
The Doğan Group’s Hürriyet daily refused to publish an interview with Orhan Pamuk, Turkey’s most famous writer and a Nobel laureate in literature, because the author expressed his objection to the constitutional reform package.
Turkish Bureau Union (Türk Büro Sen) Chairman Fahrettin Yokuş, who called on people to say “no” in the April 16 referendum on a presidential system for which President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is seeking public approval, was the target of gunshots in Ankara on Saturday.
Last month the headquarters of the Turkish Public Workers Labor Union (Kamu-Sen) was attacked by a group of people after İsmail Koncuk, the head of the union, announced that he would vote “no” in the referendum.
Imams of mosques have also been participating in the government campaign. An imam in İstanbul’s Ümraniye district accused naysayers of “treason” and “ignorance,” while an imam leading a group of Turks during Umrah in Mecca labeled naysayers as “infidels.”
Speaking during a live show on the pro-government Beyaz TV in early February, Vehbi Güler, a theologian and a staunch supporter of Erdoğan, pointed out that it was Satan who said “no” to God’s order to bow down before Adam and implied that those who vote against the amendment package in the April referendum are similar to Satan, who challenged God’s orders.
Many people believe that the constitutional amendments will pave the way for a one-man regime under Erdoğan, who has already been criticized for being authoritarian as he has purged and jailed countless thousands of critical academics, politicians, teachers, doctors, officials, businessmen, artists and journalists.