Erdogan seeks "yes" vote as sea of followers converge at rally

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hosted a giant rally in the Istanbul district of Yenikapi on Saturday ahead of an April 16 referendum that will decide whether or not to adopt a presidential system of government.

Photo by: Anadolu Agency
Photo by: Anadolu Agency

Erdogan arrived by helicopter to the cheers of a sea of jubilant supporters.

Updated Apr 10, 2017

Hundreds of thousands packed into one of the biggest public spaces in Istanbul on Saturday as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hosted a giant rally seeking votes in Turkey's largest city just over a week ahead of a referendum on enhancing his powers. 

Lambasting Turkey's enemies, Erdogan said a "yes" vote in the April 16 referendum would give Turkey more stability and power.

"On April 16, do you want to say "yes" to a strong Turkey?" Erdogan asked the crowd, who waved red and white crescent moon Turkish flags. "Yes!" the crowd roared back.

Do you want a great Turkey? Do you want to say 'Yes' to stability? Will you be there Istanbul? — Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Erdogan arrived by helicopter to cheers at the vast open ground space in the Istanbul district of Yenikapi, on the shores of the sea of Marmara.

The Turkish president was flanked by his wife, Emine Erdogan, and Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and his wife, Semiha Yildirim. 

Addressing the rally, Prime Minister Yildirim warned those who use "terror and economic crises to hinder Turkey's path in a dark game."

Tens of thousands waved red and white crescent moon Turkish flags in a show of support for the Turkish president.

"No" camp against development

It was here on August 7, 2016, that Erdogan held a mass rally to promote national solidarity in the wake of the failed July 15 coup blamed on the US-based cult leader Fethullah Gulen.

During his address, Erdogan said the likes of FETO (Fetullah Terrorist Organisation), who denies being behind the coup, and the PKK terrorist organisation, want to see a "no."

He said that "no" voters are also against his projects to transform Turkey through modern infrastructure projects such as bridges and tunnels.

"They said 'no' to the bridges. They say 'no' to a modern Turkey," he roared, prowling around a walkway that extended from the stage.

If approved, the new system will see the scrapping of the post of prime minister, the creation of vice presidents, as well as empowering the president to appoint ministers directly.

The changes will also allow the president to be affiliated with a political party.

Supporters say that the new system will create an efficient US-style presidential system but critics argue the risk of a  lack of checks-and-balances.

The "no" camp, spearheaded by Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), organised a rally in Trabzon, in northeastern Turkey.

TRTWorld and agencies