Turkey ruling party official steps down over 'civil war' warning
ANKARA - A senior regional official with Turkey's ruling party resigned Thursday after saying the country risked civil war if there was not a 'yes' vote in a referendum on giving President Recep Tayyip Erdogan greater powers.
Turkey is to vote on April 16 on whether to approve changes in the constitution to create an executive presidency in the country that critics warn could lead to one-man rule.
But Ozan Erdem, deputy head of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the western province of Manisa, this week warned that "if we don't get 50 percent... prepare yourself for civil war."
His comments were lambasted by the opposition but also troubled conservatives as tensions increase in Turkey's already polarised society ahead of the referendum.
Erdem resigned from his job on Thursday, while contending that "my comments were not presented in a way that reflected what I wanted to say."
The authorities say that the changes are needed to create more efficient governance and would bring Turkey into line with presidential systems like those in France or the United States.
But opponents fear the changes are a step on the way to an authoritarian system in the country and would inflame tensions in its diverse society.
Analysts predict that the referendum result could be tight, with many voters still undecided and the government preparing a huge campaign. Erdogan is due to kick off his rallies on Friday with a speech in the southern city of Kahramanmaras.