Voters in Turkey have supported planned changes in the constitution in a key referendum for the country’s ambitions to join the European Union. The result has been welcomed by the European Parliament: its body overseeing Turkey’s preparations to join the EU said that, while further reforms were needed, Turkish citizens should be congratulated.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed:
“Today, those who voted yes and those who have voted no have both won. Tonight the real losers have been those with military takeover mentalities. We have proof that change can be brought about democratically. Once again, conviction and trust in democracy have seen the light of day.”
The margin of victory was much wider than opinion polls had suggested: 58 percent for and 42 percent against with turnout over 77 percent. Undecided voters swung behind the changes at the last minute, as did some 90 percent of the Kurds.
They had promised to support the opposition in voting ‘no’, and will now expect to be rewarded by the referendum’s backers, the governing AK Party.
The result will boost the AK’s chances of extending its eight years in power in next year’s general election. But it is a hammer blow for the opposition and its new leader. It accused the AK of using the changes to increase its power over the judicial system and emasculate the army, which has been the ultimate, if imperfect, guarantor of Turkey’s secular tradition, and could have stepped in were the AK to introduce Islamist policies. The AK has always denied any Islamist agenda.