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Erdogan Seeks to Ease Nationalist Fears over Alleged Federal Rule | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A picture of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is seen through national flags ahead of Sunday’s constitutional referendum. (Reuters)

Ankara – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sought to reassure nationalists and ensure their backing of the presidential system on the eve of the country’s vote on a referendum that would introduce constitutional changes that would grant the presidency sweeping powers.

Fears had emerged that a federal system would be imposed in Turkey should the new presidential system be introduced.

These concerns were voiced by opposition nationalist MP Umit Ozdag in wake of Nationalist Movement Party Devlet Bahceli’s decision on Friday to back a “yes” vote in the referendum.

The Nationalist Movement Party is the smallest of three opposition groups in parliament and the only one that has decided to vote in favor of Erdogan.

Ozdag argued that the real purpose of the presidential system is to grant the president executive powers that will enable him to re-divide the country into five or seven areas of administrative rule. This will pave the way to resolving the disputes with Kurds and grant them an autonomous region in the south of the country, he explained.

Erdogan responded to the claims later that day, saying during a campaign rally in the central district of Konya that his agenda does not include anything on the federal system.

The Justice and Development ruling party “is the greatest defender of centralized rule in Turkey and we will remain so in the future,” he declared.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim reiterated the president’s statements, saying that the structure of the unified republic is stipulated in the first three articles of the constitution and they cannot be changed.

“The four principles that we cannot possibly abandon and which we stress today are: one state, one unmma, one flag and one nation,” he stressed.

Ozdag had said in an article published on Thursday that the presidential system will be followed by a change to the administrative rule in Turkey, saying that it will take inspiration from the Chinese system.

The opposition accused Erdogan of seeking to introduce federal rule in the country, referring to remarks he had made in 2013 in which he said that “Turkey should not be afraid to try federal rule.”

He made his statements at a time when efforts were underway to reach a settlement with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party.