Binali Yildirim vowed to resign from all positions he holds if any article in the proposed constitutional reforms ends up in such a system.

Speaking at a meeting with representatives of non-governmental organizations in Ankara Friday, Yildirim said: “If there is any article on the federal system or move towards a federal system in this [proposed] constitution, I will resign from my [Justice and Development] party leadership and Prime Ministry, today, immediately.” 

He said the country’s unitary state structure would remain in place.

“Unitary state structure, one state, one nation, one flag and one homeland, are irreplaceable principals for us," he said.

“We and our president have been saying this from the start…Debate over this issue would be a gross injustice to this country,” he added.

The prime minister’s remarks come after the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahceli voiced concern over allegations the government plans to move the country towards a federal system after the referendum.

The constitutional changes, which are supported by the ruling AK Party and MHP, aim to shift Turkey’s current parliamentary system towards a presidential one, which would abolish the Prime Ministry and allow more executive powers to the president.

Yildirim reiterated that the unitary state structure had been fixed when Turkey became a republic, adding that it is enshrined in the first three irrevocable articles of the constitution.

In a reference to the MHP, he said: “We feel as closely as our nationalist brothers on this unitary state issue.”

He said the constitutional reform package had been prepared with the MHP and its leader Bahceli.

Yildirim also hinted the federal structure claim could be the work of No campaigners, saying the whole issue could be the work of those who could not get enough support from the public.

The No campaign is being led by the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP).

“This is nothing but slander,” he added.

On Thursday evening, Bahceli criticized President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s aide Sukru Karatepe for allegedly speaking in favor of a federal system in Turkey earlier this week.

After the MHP leader’s remarks, some local media outlets on Friday claimed his party would vote against constitutional changes in the referendum.

However, the party’s deputy chief, Semih Yalcin, later clarified in a statement that Bahceli only spoke on the issue to draw the attention of the prime minister and the president. Yalcin said there would be no change on the party’s decision to vote Yes.

“Our leader is not a person to back down from his words,” he added.

Bahceli also reiterated that he and his party will vote Yes in the referendum. “We will say Yes on April 16 for the sake of our nation, state and for the perpetuity of Turkishness,” the party's official Twitter account quoted him as saying.

Erdogan had also rejected the claim about the federal system.

Speaking with local TV channels in Istanbul on Thursday evening, the president said: “There was a statement from my adviser. Then they twisted it. Even the adviser also made another statement to clarify the issue.

“What I am saying is this: Did you hear any such thing from me? Because, there is no such thing. I have said before, if anyone aims to do anything regarding the [state’s] structure, I would be the first one to stand against it.”

Anadolu Agency