The victory of the yes vote in Turkey’s referendum on new presidential powers is hardly a surprise given Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s overwhelming support.
His critics say the measure is the latest in a long line aimed at concentrating power. Moves they claim began well before, but were only hastened, by last year’s failed coup d’etat.
Both sides agree its biggest reform in Turkish politics since the founding of the modern republic.
Among the most controversial changes to the constitution will be the replacement of Turkey’s parliamentary democracy system.
Erdogan has long since styled himself as the Turkey’s chief or strong man and the new powers could see him remain in office till 2029.
Most of the changes will come into effect after the next elections in 2019.
Among the key moves, the president will appoint the cabinet and an undefined number of vice-presidents.
He’ll be able to select or remove senior civil servants without parliamentary approval.
The president can also retain links with a political party. And he’ll also be able to gain firm control of the Supreme Court by the appointment of its members.
The controversial proposals were put to the people as they proved far too divisive in parliament as they sparked a punch-up.
But the ruling party managed eventually to get the measures adopted, albeit with only nine votes more than the number required to hold a referendum.
Erdogan has argued that the changes are needed to end chronic instability in a country where the military has historically not been shy about coming forward to seize power.
However, the divisions revealed by the narrow result clearly suggests there’s more unrest to come.
‘‘We are joined by Ece Temelkuran a Turkish writer and political commentator to gauge her response to the referendum on the changes to the constitution that mean Turkey’s parliamentary democracy is to be replaced with an executive presidency.
Thank you for your time. Erdogan claims victory, the ‘NO’ camp cries voting irregularities and an unfair campaign. Where is the truth in all this?’‘
Ece Temelkuran: “Well, irregularity would be the ultimate underestimation, understatement, because it is not only irregularity, but it’s a massive fraud.
I am really surprised that the international media is dancing to the tune of Erdogan, because for Erdogan it is a fait accompli, to make early celebrations, just to manipulate the perception, the public perception. There was a massive fraud and I think this should have hit the headlines today instead of tight win or narrow win for Erdogan.”
Chris Cummins: “The post-coup state of emergency, the situation in the southeast and along the border with Syria is hardly a stable backdrop, yet the Turkish foreign minister (Mevlut Cavusoglu) says: “There will be stability and trust in the new Turkey”, does he have a case?”
Ece Temelkuran: “As we all know such regimes as Erdogan’s run on hostility and feelings of hatred. Nationalist sentiments have been stirred so much so that I think all the people who have voted ‘NO’ are now deeply intimidated and they are concerned about their lives, not lifestyles, but lives and I’m probably not exaggerating this.”
Chris Cummins: “So what is Erdogan’s grand plan for Turkey? How does he perceive himself?”
Ece Temelkuran: “Clearly his personal goal is to exist, because this referendum was a life and death matter for him. If he did lose it could have been, you know, he could have ended up in international courts and so on and so forth. So his personal goal is to keep his rule in tact.”
Chris Cummins: “So, we now have a situation with more powers heading to the office of president, but what about the opposition in Turkey, what’s its future?”
Ece Temelkuran: “Turkish media have been completely silenced or seized by government forces, therefore the only thing we depend on for truth is international media. This is serious, millions of people in Turkey are feeling homeless in their own country, so we are losing our country. This is more than a debate about post-truth, or reality or fact-checking or something else, this is real-time happening, it’s a disaster happening real-time. So I think journalists should be aware of their ultimate duty of telling the truth, the entire truth.”
Chris Cummins: “How about Turkey’s international relations, is this the death knell for Ankara’s EU aspirations?”
Ece Temelkuran: “Turkey is becoming more and more Middle Eastern, which half of the country openly resisted yesterday and they risked their lives by doing so.”