More than 250 artists, intellectuals call for ‘no’ vote in referendum in joint statement

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Singer Edip Akbayram

More than 250 prominent Turkish artists and intellectuals have issued a joint statement in which they called for the rejection of a constitutional reform package that will be put to a public vote this month.

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

At a news conference at the Taksim Point Hotel on Thursday, the artists and the intellectuals said just as they said “no” to a constitution prepared by the junta regime in the aftermath of a military coup in 1980 and put to a public vote in 1982, they say “no” to the constitutional reforms of today.

Actor Orhan Alkaya, singers Edip Akbayram, Onur Akın, Sabahat Akkiraz and Selda Bağcan, writer Nazım Alpman, and actress and writer Pelin Patu are among the naysaying intellectuals and artists.

Patu said she had to lie to her mother to attend the news conference because her mother is afraid of her being arrested or being shot to death in the street.

“I say ‘no’ because I am overwhelmed by the fears of so many mothers,” Patu said.

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.

Parliament’s approval paved the way for a nationwide referendum on the amendments, which would give the president, a traditionally more ceremonial role, the power to dismiss ministers and Parliament, issue decrees, declare emergency rule and appoint figures to key positions, including the judiciary.

It would also allow the president to be a member of a political party, which is currently prohibited under the constitution as the presidency is expected to exercise impartiality.

The referendum on the constitutional amendments will be held on April 16.

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