Europe

Polls open in Turkey's historic referendum on reforms

  • Supporters of Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu cheer as they listen to him during a last referendum rally in Ankara, Turkey, Saturday, April 15, 2017. Campaigning for Turkey's crucial referendum on whether to expand presidential powers entered its final stretch Saturday, with supporters of both "yes" and "no" campaigns addressing flag-waving supporters in Turkey's two main cities of Istanbul and Ankara. (AP Photo)

    Supporters of Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu cheer as they listen to him during a last referendum rally in Ankara, Turkey, Saturday, April 15, 2017. Campaigning for Turkey's crucial referendum on whether to expand presidential powers entered its final stretch Saturday, with supporters of both "yes" and "no" campaigns addressing flag-waving supporters in Turkey's two main cities of Istanbul and Ankara. (AP Photo)  (The Associated Press)

  • Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu addresses his supporters during a last referendum rally in Ankara, Turkey, Saturday, April 15, 2017. Campaigning for Turkey's crucial referendum on whether to expand presidential powers entered its final stretch Saturday, with supporters of both "yes" and "no" campaigns addressing flag-waving supporters in Turkey's two main cities of Istanbul and Ankara. (AP Photo)

    Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu addresses his supporters during a last referendum rally in Ankara, Turkey, Saturday, April 15, 2017. Campaigning for Turkey's crucial referendum on whether to expand presidential powers entered its final stretch Saturday, with supporters of both "yes" and "no" campaigns addressing flag-waving supporters in Turkey's two main cities of Istanbul and Ankara. (AP Photo)  (The Associated Press)

  • Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu shakes hands with supporters during a last referendum rally in Ankara, Turkey, Saturday, April 15, 2017. Campaigning for Turkey's crucial referendum on whether to expand presidential powers entered its final stretch Saturday, with supporters of both "yes" and "no" campaigns addressing flag-waving supporters in Turkey's two main cities of Istanbul and Ankara. (AP Photo)

    Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu shakes hands with supporters during a last referendum rally in Ankara, Turkey, Saturday, April 15, 2017. Campaigning for Turkey's crucial referendum on whether to expand presidential powers entered its final stretch Saturday, with supporters of both "yes" and "no" campaigns addressing flag-waving supporters in Turkey's two main cities of Istanbul and Ankara. (AP Photo)  (The Associated Press)

The first polling stations have opened in Turkey's historic referendum on reforms that would concentrate power in the hands of the nation's president.

The 18 constitutional changes would convert Turkey's system of government from parliamentary to presidential, and abolish the office of the prime minister.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who called the referendum and has championed the "yes" campaign, says the proposed "Turkish style" presidential system will ensure the country no longer risks having weak governments. Opponents fear the change will lead to autocratic one-man rule, ensuring Erdogan, who has been accused of repressing rights and freedoms, could govern until 2029 with few checks and balances.

Polls in the east opened at 7 a.m. (0400 GMT), while those in the west are to open an hour later.