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BBP decides to endorse ‘yes’ vote in referendum, sparking unrest in party

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The Grand Unity Party (BBP), one of the small parties in Turkey which is not represented in Parliament, has decided to support a constitutional reform package that will be put to a public vote on April 16, leading to unrest within the party.

In January, Turkey’s Parliament passed constitutional amendments, later approved by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, that will transform the political order into an executive-style presidential system, effectively widening the scope of powers of the position.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), backed by the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), pushed through the legislation that President Erdoğan says will bring the strong leadership needed to prevent a return of the fragile coalition governments of the past.

The Republican People’s Party (CHP) and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) fear the reform will fuel authoritarianism.

At a news conference on Friday, BBP leader Mustafa Destici said his party would vote “yes” in the referendum, adding that a meeting he had with Erdoğan at the presidential palace on March 2 played an important role in his party’s decision.

Destici’s announcement attracted criticism from his own party’s members, who accused him of imposing his own decision on the party and disregarding the views of the members.

The BBP provincial branch in Sivas, the hometown of BBP founder Muhsin Yazıcıoğlu, who died in a helicopter crash in 2009, released a statement later on Friday in which they strongly criticized Destici’s decision to vote in favor of the referendum.

The BBP Sivas branch said the decision on the referendum was not a party decision but one made by Destici alone.

“We lost BBP Chairman Mustafa Destici. He is null and void,” said a statement from the BBP Sivas branch.

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