Early voting for Turkish expats in six European countries started to vote in a constitutional referendum that could significantly expand presidential powers. Early voting takes place until April 9, in several European countries with large populations of ethnic Turks.
Earlier this month, Turkey has been involved in a diplomatic spat with Germany and the Netherlands, after both EU members prevented Turkish government officials from holding political meetings in support for a ‘Yes’ vote.
Ankara has condemned the effort to block its officials from participating in pro-government rallies in Germany and the Netherlands, and Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, denounced German and Dutch leadership as ‘Nazis’ and accused German Chancellor Angela Merkel of using ‘Nazi measures’.
Turkey’s has large expat communities in several European countries, in Germany alone, it has been estimated that 1.4 million Turks are eligible to take part in the upcoming constitutional referendum. Erdogan’s regime seeks to secure the support of Turkish national living abroad, as their votes could have a decisive impact on the outcome of the referendum.
A constitutional referendum will be held in Turkey on Sunday, April 16.
Voters will decide whether to keep the current parliamentary system, or move to a presidential one, significantly expanding Erdogan’s executive powers.
Opponents fear that a ‘Yes’ vote in the referendum will further extend Erdogan’s hold on power, and weaken Turkey’s secular democracy. The referendum had caused tensions within the Turkish community in Germany and between Germans and Turks.
Ayfer Inci-Pekoz, who was handing out flyers in support of “no” in Berlin, told the Associated Press news agency : “This referendum scares me. I think if Erdogan wins it will further erode democracy in Turkey.”
After a failed coup attempt in July last year, Erdogan launched a massive crackdown against his opponents in the military, education and judiciary system.