Yes or no? Turks explain how they plan to vote in Sunday’s contentious referendum

YES: Street vendor Hikmet Gunduz, 52, in Diyarbakir says, "I like President Erdogan's character. He is a bit angry and a bit authoritarian but his heart is full of love." Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

Updated on April 18 | Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared a win in Sunday's referendum changing the government from a parliamentary to a presidential system.

Original story:

Turks vote Sunday on a referendum that would expand President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's powers, including allowing him to dismiss the parliament.

Erdogan argues that switching Turkey from a parliamentary to a presidential republic would help streamline the process of reforms, but critics worry it would tighten his grip on opponents.

Opinion polls show a narrow lead for those voting "yes." Reuters recounted some of the reasons Turks are basing their vote in this report and in the photos below.

Businesswoman Dilsat Gulsevim Arinc, 68, in her cafe in Cesme in Izmir province defines herself as "modern and a Kemalist." Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters


"I don't want someone to rule us like a sultan on his throne. I don't think a 'No' result in the referendum will stop Erdogan but it would be a useful lesson for him. He is too authoritarian. If things go on like this, it will not take more than 10 years for Turkey to come to an end."

Hotel owner Aynur Sullu, 49, in Cesme, a town in Izmir province. Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters


"I am modern, rightist, nationalist and Kemalist. Under the rule of the AK party, we are stronger. We have a better economy, and better health and education systems. It is a big lie that there is an unemployment problem. We have freedoms. Anyone can drink raki or swim in a bikini. And now women with headscarves have freedom too."

Fisherman Cengiz Topcu, 57, in Rize on the Black Sea coast. Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters


"I am a patriot. In the past Erdogan was a good man but recently he has changed in a bad way. I want a democracy, not the rule of one man. Systems ruled by one person lead to military coups." Topcu said he thought that Turkey's biggest problems are unemployment and terror. He is also concerned about the environment: "In the past, there were lots fish in the Black Sea, but now it is polluted. The chemicals from the factories along the rivers pollute the rivers and these rivers carry the poison to the sea. There are no more fish around."

Cleaner and farmer Fatma Peker, 58, in her tea field in Surmene a town in Trabzon province. Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters


"I love my President Tayyip Erdogan very much. He is powerful and a Muslim. Our biggest challenge is terrorism. Germany, the Netherlands, England, the United States — they all support the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). While they are torturing Muslims, they allow PKK members to do whatever they want. In 10 years' time, Turkey will be the strongest country in the world."

Author Ahmet Umit, 56, at an international conference about his books in Istanbul. Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters


"Turkey's main problem is social consensus. The constitutional changes should solve our existing problems and improve our democracy. But they won't. What we need is not the rule of one man or one party. What we need is independent executive, legislative and judiciary powers and an independent media; not a system where one owns all the power. If you lose your country, what would a victory in the referendum mean?"

Food vendor Adil Aydin, 47, in his shop in Diyarbakir. Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters


"I will vote 'Yes' but it's not from my heart. I will vote 'Yes' because there isn't any leader who could rule better than Erdogan. In the past, other countries didn't care about what Turkey's leader said, but now they are all listening to Erdogan."

A retired manufacturer and head of an Alevi association Muzaffer Aksakal, 65, in Istanbul. Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters


"If the 'Yes' wins, parliament will be useless and the right to declare war or peace will be in the hands of a single man." Aksakal belongs to the Alevi religious minority, which make up about 15-20 percent of Turkey's 80 million people. Alevis draw from Shiite, Sufi and Anatolian folk traditions and practice distinct rituals which can put them at odds with their Sunni Muslim counterparts, many of whom accuse them of heresy. "Erdogan government always follows racist politics. Alevis are under pressure. The system ignores the Alevis."

Housewife Pinar Ayyildiz Ozen, 41, in her kitchen in Cesme, a town in Izmir province says. Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters


"Erdogan is a reliable leader, he means a lot for Turkey. In the past, it was difficult to buy a washing machine. Now when one is broken, we buy a new one rather than have the old one repaired. If Erdogan rules for another 10 years, it would be good. Erdogan is the leader of the Muslim world."

Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Member of Parliament Didem Engin, 39, at a campaign event in Istanbul. Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters


"The ruling party wants to raise a religious generation but we need a generation that innovates and questions."

Web editor Mustafa Goktas, 47, in Istanbul. Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters


"I am a religious conservative. Erdogan is like us. He understands us. He understands our needs. He is the man of the nation."

Restaurant owner Haluk Ozakin, 32, in his store in Diyarbakir says he was working for Diyarbakir municipality but was fired when pro-Erdogan parties took control of it. Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters


"I will say 'No' because there is a war environment in this country. There is a lot of violent pressure on us. Erdogan is a cunning man. The people who are voting 'Yes' don't even know what are they voting for. Our biggest problem is the absence of democracy and this war environment."

Souvenir shop owner Ilter Etike, 31, in Cesme. Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters


"Erdogan is a political genius. I love him. For democracy, these changes are necessary. If Turkey says 'Yes' in the referendum, there will be stability and it will help to solve the PKK problem. Once this is solved, Turkey will become one of the 10 biggest economies of the world within 10 years."

Retired teacher Melek Algin Iyidinc, 60, in her garden in Artvin. Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters


"I am a socialist and atheist. I have never voted for the AK Party. Erdogan is not a person who settles with the power he has. He is an authoritarian, always asking for more power. There should be a point at which the people of this country stop this. The referendum gives us this opportunity. It's time to say no." She said Turkey's biggest problems are the lack of democracy, the economy and the environment: "The government recently gave license to mining companies to dig our green forests. It is going to cause a big environmental disaster. Only when these mining projects are cancelled can I have hope again for our future."

Mayor of Umraniye district of Istanbul and founder member of the ruling AK Party Hasan Can, 63, in Istanbul. Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters


"The current system promotes instability. We need stable and decisive development. If the change that is planned with this referendum is approved, no one will be able to stand against Turkey. All our problems will be solved. Unemployment and terrorism will be solved."

Galatasaray University student Pelin Isilak, 19, in a bazaar in Istanbul. Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters


"I am against Erdogan but would also be against my father if he asked for so much power."

Associate professor of pathology, Dr. Sevdegul Aydin Mungan, 40, in her laboratory in a university hospital in Trabzon. Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters


"I am a humanist and a patriot. I had serious problems because of my headscarf while I was a student and then as an academic at the university hospital. I had friends wearing headscarves who left school and had mental problems. I am grateful to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan because under his rule I was aware again that I was human. I had the right to work with clothes that expressed my way of being. Erdogan is in love with his nation. If 'Yes' wins, we will become a more respectful and powerful country. But some countries are not comfortable with Turkey becoming more powerful."

Retired banker Mehmet Emin Erelvanli, 62, in Cesme. Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters


"Journalists are being jailed. He appoints ministers, judges, prosecutors, university rectors etc. He already has enough power but is still asking for more. If this goes on, it will end very badly."

Housewife Merve Songur, 37, in Istanbul. Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters


"I will say 'Yes' because all these changes are necessary for the good of this country. Erdogan is a real leader, to love him is different from any other kind of love. The European Union has double standards; they think Muslims are terrorists."

Armen Demirjiyan, 55, a bookseller and member of a small Armenian community in largely Kurdish Diyarbakir. Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters


"I am a leftist. I will vote for 'No'. One man should not rule the country." Belonging to Turkey's Armenian community raises different issues for Demirjiyan. "I discovered that I was Armenian when I was 27 years old. My uncle said it at my father's funeral. The AK Party did not do enough for Armenians. Armenian schools are still teaching according to the Turkish system. Turkey's biggest problem is that it does not recognize the Armenian massacre as genocide. If Turkey continues this way, it will be like Syria. Turkey must be a member of the EU."

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