Thursday, April 13, 2017

Will Turkey's President Be Given 'Sweeping New Powers'? Fearing For Future, Turks Seek New Lives Abroad

Turkish referendum polls show 'Yes' vote above 51 percent

A narrow majority of Turks will vote "Yes" in Sunday's referendum on changing the constitution to grant President Tayyip Erdogan sweeping new powers, two opinion polls showed on Thursday.

The April 16 vote will decide on the biggest change in Turkey's system of governance since the modern republic's foundation almost a century ago, potentially replacing its parliamentary system with an executive presidency.

Polling company Konda said the number of "yes" voters stood at 51.5 percent, but said its survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percent.

"When this forecast is considered within the survey’s margin of error, a final judgement might be misleading," Konda said in a statement.

Its survey, carried out face-to-face with 3,462 people in 30 provinces on April 7-9, showed turnout for the vote would be around 90 percent. It said the level of undecided voters had fallen to 9 percent from more than 20 percent in January and there was no evidence to indicate their preference..

Lawyer Savas Ersoy and his wife turned down many chances to leave Turkey and work abroad. But after a failed coup, a wave of bombs and the referendum on expanding presidential powers on Sunday, they are packing their bags.
Like other professionals who are leaving Turkey, the Ersoys say they are uncertain about the country's political future and afraid of instability.
"We have been thinking of moving abroad for about a year and a half. However, with the developments in Turkey over the past six to seven months, we have decided to move," said the 37-year-old lawyer.
Sunday's referendum could grant President Tayyip Erdogan new authority and transform Turkish politics. Already the most powerful leader since the founder of modern Turkey Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Erdogan has won successive elections and enjoys strong support among pious and conservative voters, mainly in rural areas.
But he is viewed with suspicion by many liberal Turks, who say the secular foundations of the country of 80 million people are being eroded by an increasingly authoritarian president.
The Ersoys are moving to the Danish capital Copenhagen this month after Ersoy's wife, who works in the pharmaceutical sector, took up the offer of a job they had previously declined.
"We have had job offers from abroad before as well. We didn’t accept them, thinking ’Why would we go?’ But the developments after (the failed coup on) July 15, the referendum, this executive presidency issue, things have gotten out of hand," Ersoy said.
"We don’t know what will happen in six months. Bombs are exploding in many parts of the nation. I have a three-year old daughter and Europe is safer."
A "Yes" vote on Sunday would empower Erdogan to appoint ministers, top officials and judges, dissolve parliament and declare emergency rule - powers his backers say are needed to confront Islamic State and Kurdish militants and root out those behind last July's attempted coup.

Erdogan's critics say the changes would remove checks on his power, lurching Turkey closer to becoming an authoritarian state, after a post-coup crackdown in which more than 100,000 people were sacked or suspended over suspected links with terrorist organisations.
Statistics on exactly how many professionals are leaving Turkey are hard to find, but Ersoy's comments echo those of several who spoke to Reuters in the run-up to the referendum.
Gokhan Gokceoglu, who runs a financial consultancy firm in Britain, said a growing number of Turks were trying to follow in his footsteps.
"As someone who lives in Britain, I can say that there is an increase in demand from white-collar and well-educated people in recent times to live in Britain and get citizenship," he told Reuters while on a holiday break in Istanbul.
Feray Aksit, 36, worries about how Turkey's secular outlook will be affected by the policies of Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted AK Party, particularly the impact on her daughter's schooling.
She resigned from her job in the telecommunications sector to prepare for a move to Germany, where her engineer husband found work.
"In terms of security, we don’t have the same comfort we did five or six years ago either... At first we doubted whether we were doing the right thing. But after the decision to hold the referendum, we thought the coming years would be uncertain as well," she said.

While many lawyers, economists, engineers and bankers look for work or university programmes to get residency permits in foreign countries, those who do not have those options - but do have cash - buy property to secure their place abroad.

Several European Union countries offer residency permits in return for real estate investment, with minimum levels set at anything from 250,000 euros to several million euros.

Selcan Turk, who has lived there for 15 years, set up a business for Turks buying property in Greece. She said she brought dozens of people to examine properties in March, and three of those prospects had turned into sales.
"Turks' interest in Greece has increased dramatically in the past five to six months. Even though their economic status isn't too high, they are using all the resources they have," she said.

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