‘It’s a power struggle — like Game of Thrones’: Turks in London uneasy over referendum result as voting comes to a close
‘Only God knows’, a consulate officer said when asked about the expected result of the upcoming referendum on whether to change Turkey’s political system from a parliamentary structure to a presidential one.
Thousands of voters have been flocking to Hammersmith to take part, with Britain’s Turkish community expected to deliver a No vote by a nine to one margin in the deeply divisive referendum.
The solemn faces of many who cast their ballots on Friday showed they are far from confident in securing a majority back home.
“I think it is going to be yes as much as I don’t want it to be,” one voter from Kent said.
“Even if it is a no vote they will change it.”
A line of No campaign coaches brought supporters from Manchester, Nottingham and Luton to the Novotel London West Hotel as the city held the last of four days of voting today ahead of the national referendum on April 16.
A No campaign volunteer said: “We think we’ll win, in London we will win.
“Erdogan is a fascist dictator.
“Already the system is very bad but it will be worse and worse.”
Across Turkey and Europe tensions are running high as the government rallies support in favour of expanding presidential powers, including allowing the president to choose 12 out of 15 high court judges, vetoing all parliament legislation and abolishing the office of prime minister.
Clashes outside the Turkish consulate in Brussels led to six people being seriously injured and two hospitalised amid early ballot casting.
Meanwhile a diplomatic row was sparked with Germany and the Netherlands as Turkish ministers were barred from holding campaign rallies in both countries.
The episode led President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to liken the behaviour of the two nations to that of the Nazis.
Conversely, the first two days of early voting in London had passed with little tension, according to one electoral observer.
“Let us have one president,” one Kurdish voter said — pointing out Turkey’s history of in-fighting between the president and prime minister.
“I’m not pro Erdogan, I don’t like him as well.
“This government are not the best, justice now is not very un-biased but it is better than before.”
The PhD student said that, under Erdogan’s government, education and healthcare has improved and society has become more open to Islam when previously he remembered hiding his Quran on top of a lift.
“We say yes not for Erdogan, we say yes for this,” he said
Up to 50,000 Turkish nationals are expected to vote at the Hammersmith venue over the four days of ballot casting, with stepped up security at the weekend to accommodate for the higher turnouts.
A failed military coup, followed by a government crackdown on civil society, as well as a spate of terrorist attacks are the pretext for this referendum.
In response, many of Erdogan’s supporters have called for the stability of an Erdogan executive presidency in a turbulent era.
The No campaigners said it is very hard to carry their message in Turkey without intimidation and backlash.
They say Erdogan has control of the media and propaganda in the country.
A referendum volunteer said: “If you vote no you are a terrorist.”
“People are scared if we do get a no vote that Erodgan won’t accept it.”
“It’s a power struggle — like Game of Thrones.”