Social media battle lines drawn ahead of Turkish vote

 Reuters International

Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan greets the audience during a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, January 27, 2017. Yasin Bulbul/Presidential Palace/Handout via REUTERS


By Ercan Gurses and Ayhan Uyanik

ANKARA/ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Campaigning has not officially started, but a string of video “selfies” by the likes of sports stars, actors and cabinet ministers has already launched a divisive debate on plans that would hand Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan sweeping new powers.

His supporters see the move to replace Turkey’s parliamentary democracy with an all-powerful presidency as a guarantee of stability at a time of turmoil. Opponents fear a lurch towards authoritarianism if an April referendum approves the change.

In a country where mainstream news channels are saturated by Erdogan’s appearances and speeches by government ministers, and where political demonstrations are tightly restricted, the battle for votes is increasingly being waged online.

“Unfortunately the ‘No’ supporters don’t have much opportunity to get their message across on television channels or other media,” said actor Baris Atay, who was castigated by pro-government newspapers for a social media video in which he says “no to one-man rule, fascism and dictatorship”.

“Saying ‘Yes’, siding with Erdogan, and being a nationalist is thinking of the country’s future, but saying ‘No’ is being a provocateur, a traitor and a terrorist – this is the perception they’re trying to establish,” he told Reuters.



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