In the final day of campaigning ahead of Turkey's referendum, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took aim at the European Union (EU) as well as Kurdish separatists who are against the proposed constitutional changes.
Speaking in the Kartal neighbourhood on the Asian side of Istanbul on Saturday, he said: “If Kandil is saying 'no', if the head of separatists [PKK] who is in Imrali is saying 'no', if the fool in Pennsylvania is saying ‘no’, then this means we are in the right direction, aren’t we?”
It is commonly believed that the leadership of the PKK terror group are hiding out in the Kandil Mountains while their leader languishes in jail in Imrali. Turkey has been seeking to have Fethullah Gulen extradited from the United States. He is accused of being behind the July 15 coup attempt.
He labelled the EU as a Christian club that were refusing Turkey’s membership application.
“EU member countries have gone to Vatican. What business do they have in there? Is Vatican an EU member? No? Those include Protestants, Orthodox and atheists. But they have all gone to Catholic Vatican. Because they are one nation. Let no one come to us saying what to do. They put this country off for 54 years and April 16 will be a turning point.”
Erdogan has been at odds with members of the EU after Turkish politicians were recently banned from campaigning in several of these countries, especially the Netherlands, Germany and Austria.
However, much of this made little difference as some 3,000 people packed the small park in the residential area of Kartal to hear Erdogan speak.
It was a festive atmosphere in the Kartal neighbourhood where he held one of the final rallies to urge Turkey’s voters to approve 18 amendments to the country’s constitution.
Flags hang from balconies and buildings surrounding the little park as residents watched from their balconies. There was a security presence and those entering the small park were searched by police.
People sat on rooftops as he spoke; an ambulance was parked nearby.
Luftu Aslan, who watched Erdogan speak from his balcony, said he would be voting in favour of the changes because he trusts the Turkish president. “My mind is made up.”
The amendments, if approved, will see changes to the power of military courts, the role of the president, the elimination of the country's prime minister as well the ability to prosecute the president. Critics claim the revisions will lead to one-man rule while those in favour believe it will create a stronger government that is not deadlocked by coalitions.