Filed at 7:37 a.m. ET
The referendum on 26 amendments to a constitution that was
crafted after a 1980 military coup has become a battleground between the
Islamic-oriented government and traditional power elites that believe
Street clashes marred voting at several polling stations in provinces with large Kurdish populations. A Kurdish party has urged supporters to boycott the ballot, arguing that the proposed changes would not advance the rights of the ethnic minority.
Police nationwide detained 120 people suspected of threatening people into either boycotting the vote or casting their ballot in a certain way, Interior Minister Besir Atalay said.
''From tomorrow onwards,
Voting stations close at 4 p.m. (1300 GMT, 9 a.m. EDT) in
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan voted
The date evoked
The civilian government says the amendments fall in line with EU requirements for membership, partly by making the military more accountable to civilian courts and allowing civil servants to go on strike. The opposition, however, believes a provision that would give parliament more say in appointing judges masks an attempt to control the courts, which have sparred with Erdogan's camp.
The military and the court system, including the
The ruling party, whose reforms have won backing from the European
Union, says the hardline emphasis on
secularism and nationalism must be updated to incorporate democratic change,
including religious freedoms. It lost a battle in 2008 when the
If approved, the constitutional amendments would also remove immunity from prosecution for the engineers of the 1980 coup. Kenan Evren, the military chief who seized power and became president, is 93 and ailing.
Many Kurdish politicians said they would not vote because the amendments do not specifically address discrimination toward the minority, which comprises up to 20 percent of the population. Kurdish rebels announced a suspension of attacks a month ago, but that unilateral cease-fire is due to expire on Sept. 20.
On Sunday, in the Mediterranean city of
In the nearby town of
Police also clashed with protesters suspected of forcing
people into boycotting the vote in the southeastern
Associated Press writers Suzan Fraser and Ceren Kumova in
And here, the first piece from BBC News:
The people of
The referendum is seen partly as a vote of confidence in Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan
What is being decided?
Whether to endorse modifications to Turkey's current constitution, which would make the military more accountable to civilian courts and give parliament - the 550-seat Gran National Assembly (Buyuk Millet Meclisi) - more power to appoint judges.
The amendments would also grant civil servants the right to conclude collective agreements and go on strike, as well as lift immunity from prosecution for the leaders of the bloody 1980 military takeover.
If the referendum is successful, it is expected to finally dissociate
What else is at stake?
The referendum is also seen as a vote of confidence in Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is expected to seek a third term of office in 2011.
His critics accuse his ruling Justice and Development Party, the AKP, of attempting to seize control of the judiciary as part of a back-door Islamist coup.
The AKP says the reforms will pave the way for a reorganisation of the high courts and help meet requirements for EU membership.
The existing constitution, ratified in a referendum in 1982, has frequently been criticised for allegedly being outmoded and curtailing human rights.
The AKP sees the military, judiciary and state
bureaucracy as the last bastion of conservative secularism. They are often seen
as self-declared guardians of the legacy of the founder of the
How many voters are taking part?
Almost 49.5 million people, out of
A survey recently conducted by the pollster PollMark suggests that 56.2 per cent of the electorate will vote Yes, while 43.8 per cent will vote No.
The highest number of Yes votes is likely to come from cities in Central
Anatolia, and the highest number of No votes from cities in the Marmara region,
What led up to the referendum?
The package of amendments was prepared by the AKP, which has wanted to change the constitution since it came to power in 2002.
It drew up a draft in 2007, but could not enlist the opposition's support for it. The party then prepared a list of partial amendments, which will be voted on in the upcoming plebiscite.
The package was passed by parliament in late April and early May 2010 with 336 votes, below the two-thirds majority necessary to pass it directly, but enough to send it to a referendum within 60 days after the president signed the law. President Abdullah Gul, of the AKP, signed it on 13 May 2010.
Who are the main critics of the vote?
The CHP and MHP see the referendum as the AKP's attempt to politicise the judiciary and subordinate it to the executive branch.
The BDP and PKK have called for a boycott, saying the proposed constitutional reforms do not meet Kurdish needs for a brand new constitution.
And here, the second piece from BBC News:
Recep Tayyip Erdogan: "There is a flood of disinformation and black propaganda"
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has criticised the tactics of his political opponents ahead of a referendum on constitutional reform.
Speaking to the BBC ahead of Sunday's vote, Mr Erdogan accused them of using "disinformation and black propaganda".
The proposed reforms include controversial changes to the judiciary.
A positive result is expected to help the country in its bid to join the EU, by finally dissociating it from remnants of autocratic rule.
The present constitution was introduced in 1982 by the military.
The EU has said it sees the vote as a significant step for
Opposition parties say the changes will give the government more control over the appointment of senior judges.
In a speech on Wednesday, Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu said Mr Erdogan was trying to seize the judiciary.
He said Mr Erdogan "lamented" being able to appoint the president, the parliamentary speaker, governors and chiefs of police, but not a single judge.
"'Give me the authority, Erdogan says, so that I can also appoint judges," Mr Kilicdaroglu said.
The BBC's Jonathan Head in
Opinion polls suggest the vote will be close.
Mr Erdogan has been travelling around
But he told the BBC the main opposition parties were deceiving voters.
"At the moment, there is a flood of disinformation and black propaganda," he said.
· The military would be more accountable to civilian courts
· Parliament would have more power to appoint judges
· Civil servants would be given the right to conclude collective agreements and go on strike
· The immunity from prosecution for the leaders of the bloody 1980 military takeover would be lifted
"They claim these reforms are my personal project or a project of my party - that claim is unfounded."
Mr Erdogan argues the reforms will make the military-drafted constitution more democratic.
However, his critics have accused his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of trying to seize control of the judiciary as part of a back-door Islamist coup.
The AKP has clashed repeatedly with
But Mr Erdogan told the BBC his party had never discriminated between secular or non-secular Turks.
"We have brought services to all regions, all classes and all ethnic groups, without any discrimination," he said.
"From a wider perspective we are the real democracy in this region and as a democratic country we always want to do better, so with these reforms I will bring in a more progressive democracy to our country."
He said he believed that secularism should apply to the state, not the people.
any country, in