On Sun., April 16, the Turkish electorate voted, and with a narrow majority of 51.3 percent, passed a constitutional referendum that would alter the Turkish political system into an elected dictatorship. This change, while achieved by a small margin, will have drastic impacts upon what used to be a parliamentary representative democracy.
As a result of this shift, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will wield unrestricted power, making this presidential form of government different than that of the United States. While the United States utilizes a system of checks and balances, this new Turkish regime favors only the whims of Erdoğan, who has been a dominant political figure in Turkey for over a decade. Under the constitutional amendment, the President would be both head of state and head of government; the referendum allows for authoritarian tendencies, limiting the influence of the Turkish Parliament and halting the progress of democracy.
In addition to eliminating the sway of a democratic parliament, Erdoğan will now have additional power to appoint a cabinet and senior judges to his liking, placing presidential influence on the justice system, as well as the political scene. Parliament will now have far fewer powers over the organization of legislation and various legal regulations, those being up to Erdoğan.
The vote has generated both domestic and international concern for various reasons, the first of which being that Turkey has been in an official State of Emergency since an attempted military coup failed in July 2016. The voices of journalists and activists have been silenced by stringent legislation with 47,000 arrested, 200 of them journalists who still remain incarcerated. Erdoğan’s disregard for civil and political liberties will only serve to exacerbate these preexisting circumstances.
However, contradicting popular speculation, Erdoğan himself denies the formation of a dictatorship. Rejecting allegations that insinuate his motives come from a place of self-empowerment, Erdoğan insists that “The system represents a change, a transformation in the democratic history of Turkey,” and that his only goals are in the interest of his nation.
The primary question seems to center around where Erdoğan will take his new power. The Turkish President has commented on his affinity for President Trump and Turkey’s continuance as a combatant to ISIS, a shelter for Syrian refugees, and an active member of NATO.
(Sources: The Nation, CNN)