CNN news 2017-05-10
We're starting in a nation that's been described as a bridge between East and West, Turkey, between Europe and the Middle East, between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, has a population of more than 80 million. It's a parliamentary republic and a major referendum, a vote coming up this Sunday could dramatically change the way the country is govern.
Turkish voters will be deciding whether or not to change their country's constitution and turn its parliamentary system into a presidential one.
This would give Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, more power and it could allow him to stay in office as the nation's leader until 2029.
Supporters say there are too many voices in the government and that the amendments would strengthen it with one clear leader. They also say the president would be more effective at stabilizing Turkey and dealing with militants who want the government overthrown. Opponents of the amendment say they give the president too much power, that he's already pushed the boundaries, and that the changes would move Turkey away from democracy.
The country appears to be deeply divided over the referendum and it's not certain yet which way voters are leaning.
SUBTITLE: Erdogan: What you need to know.
BECKY ANDERSON, cnn CORRESPONDENT: Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ruled Turkey for over a decade, during which the country has become a regional powerhouse. So, he became Turkey's first directly elected president in 2014, after rules within his party prevented him from seeking a fourth term as prime minister.
But Erdogan hopes to transform the office of the presidency, traditionally mostly a ceremonial role, into a fully pledged executive office, through a constitutional referendum. In March 2017, Erdogan got caught up in a messy diplomatic spat with the leaders of the Netherlands and indeed of some other European countries, after they barred Turkey's ministers from campaigning for the referendum in the country, which has a significant community of Turkish Diaspora.
He's also facing other big challenges. The country is part of the U.S.-led coalition, fighting ISIS. Turkey is also fighting a full scale insurgency from Kurdish militants, like the PKK. Both groups have carried deadly bombings in recent years, dumpling Turkey's tourism and hurting the economy.
But the biggest challenge to his rule came in July of 2016, when a group of military officers tried to push him out of power. The coup failed and in an ironic twist boosted Erdogan's political power.
Despite all the challenges, Erdogan does still enjoy huge support at home and will without doubt remain the key figure in Turkish politics for the near future.