Turkey's Vote A Popularity Contest For Democracy Turks went to the polls Sunday in a nationwide referendum on changes to the 1980 constitution. The ballot is widely seen as a test of the popularity of the government of Prime Minister Erdogan, ahead of parliamentary elections next year. Host Liane Hansen talks to NPR's Peter Kenyon in Istanbul.
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Turkey's Vote A Popularity Contest For Democracy

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Turkey's Vote A Popularity Contest For Democracy

Turkey's Vote A Popularity Contest For Democracy

Turkey's Vote A Popularity Contest For Democracy

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/129809845/129809828" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Turks went to the polls Sunday in a nationwide referendum on changes to the 1980 constitution. The ballot is widely seen as a test of the popularity of the government of Prime Minister Erdogan, ahead of parliamentary elections next year. Host Liane Hansen talks to NPR's Peter Kenyon in Istanbul.

LIANE HANSEN, Host:

NPR's Peter Kenyon joins us from a polling center in Istanbul. And, Peter, how has the voting gone today?

PETER KENYON: Most people say, well, yes, we've got an old constitution, the result of a military coup, it does need to be rewritten. In fact, the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was re-elected to do just that three years ago. But he couldn't get it through the parliament, which is very divided. And so now, what Turks are voting on today is this rather ad hoc package of 26 amendments.

HANSEN: And explain about those amendments. Why are some of them so controversial?

KENYON: Opposition leaders say some of these reforms would give the AK Party too much power over the judiciary, for instance. And they really don't believe Prime Minister Erdogan when he says he may be religious himself, but his job is to defend Turkey's secular government. They're afraid that as the government gains more control, it may seek to eventually undermine secular institutions.

HANSEN: So do Turks see this then as an early test of strength for the government, which will seek its third term in office next year?

KENYON: So this is definitely an important signal as to whether voters are still happy with the AK Party after eight years in power or whether they're beginning to think about a change.

HANSEN: NPR's Peter Kenyon in Istanbul, Turkey. Peter, thank you very much.

KENYON: You're welcome, Liane.

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