“This is a radical decision point for the future of Turkey,” said lawyer Baris Aslan as he stood outside the Cihangir Primary School, where more than 5,000 people were registered to vote at 13 ballot boxes. “This is the spot between the religious and the secular, between despotism or democracy. I voted ‘no.’”
Mr. Aslan said that the changes had been prepared by “the Islamist party” and “without the input of the people."
"They are asking – in fact threatening – people to vote 'yes,' " said Aslan. "The Prime Minister said if you do not take part, you will be ‘eliminated.’ What does that mean? That you will no longer be a Turk?”
Echoing critics from nationalist parties who, during eight years of AKP rule, have been dismayed at the erosion of the military’s role in Turkish society, and the failure of the powerful judiciary to stop the AKP, Aslan said the vote was about “trust” in the government.
“If ‘yes’ is the result, then Tayyip Erdogan will be the king alone, to decide for Turkey,” says Aslan. “He’ll become the sole power.”
But inside the primary school, upstairs past a number of portraits of Ataturk, the worldview of other Turkish voters could not be more different.
“We believe if we say ‘yes,’ it will be good for democracy, and we want democracy,” said Abdul Hamid, a student. His mother, a housewife called Altun, was wearing a black headscarf and said: “Yes, yes, yes!”
“We believe in the AKP, and in Prime Minister Erdogan,” said Mr. Hamid, who predicted a 60 percent victory for the “yes” vote. His father would arrive in five minutes, to vote the same way. “It is so important to change the rules.”