The Turkish opposition lost the parliamentary battle against the constitutional amendments that critics say will transform Turkey into a Presidential democracy with very few balances, but the referendum to ratify the constitutional amendments is still open.

Parliamentary battle lost

Just before the parliamentary debate in January, the leader of the Turkish opposition, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, told DW that the new constitutional amendments were leading the country to a “dictatorship,” telling the Cumhuriyet daily the country is edging towards the Syria model.

The constitutional amendments introduced to empower the President to rule unhindered from the parliament. The President will be allowed to appoint and dismiss a government without parliamentary consent. And although the president would be limited to two terms of office, Erdogan will not be required to leave his or her political party. In addition, the scope of executive orders widens.

Fractured “Yes” campaign

AKP passed these amendments with the support of the far-right nationalist MHP. However, a number of nationalist MPs refused to support the constitutional amendments and were expelled from the party.

The amendments must now be ratified by referendum due to take place in April amidst an unprecedented economic crisis, a standoff with Greece, and ongoing talks in Cyprus.

The campaign is getting ugly

The opposition is campaigning hard for “no.”

The London-based Ceftus think-tank cites a poll by AKAM published on Wednesday, which suggests the “yes” is only narrowly in the lead with an unconvincing 57.6%.

Kılıçdaroğlu told Süddeutsche Zeitung on Tuesday that he is rallying the opposition in defence of democracy rather than against President Erdogan.

Meanwhile, the expelled nationalist MPs have launched a “Turkish Nationalists Say No Committee,” while regional leaders continue to defect from the party.

The response of the administration is resolute.

A prominent CHP campaigner for “no,” Sera Kadigil, has been arrested on charges of “inciting hatred,” allegedly for a tweet message, while Cumhuriyet reports there have been several arrests targeting “no” campaigners.