April 16, 2017
Rohin Ghosh A woman casts her vote in the constitutional referendum at a poll booth in the city of Istanbul. (photo credit-Fox news).
This Sunday, Turkey is holding a referendum on whether or not to approve a plan for the nation’s new constitution. The new constitution would likely give more power to the current Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Since a failed attempt at overthrowing Erdogan in July of 2016, the president has taken several steps to consolidate power and suppress opposition. President Erdogan has also expressed that he favors a less secular, more Islamic Turkey. However, especially since the failed coup last summer, Erdogan has cracked down hard on dissent and opposition to his policies and ideas. Under the leadership of President Erdogan, Turkey has arrested hundreds of journalists who criticized the government. Under Erdogan, Turkey has also renewed its war on the PKK, a group which fights for independence for ethnic Kurds in southeastern Turkey, but has engaged in terrorist attacks in Turkey. In fighting against the PKK, the Turkish government has arrested leaders of pro-Kurdish political parties and cracked down on Kurdish dissent.
President Erdogan. (Wikimedia Commons)
The new Constitution
One of the promises made by Recep Tayyip Erdogan while he was running for president was that he would draft a new constitution. The new constitution drafted by Erdogan will make several major changes to the government. The constitution would give the position of president significantly more power. The new constitution would, if passed, dissolve the position of Prime Minister and allow the president to unilaterally declare a state of emergency and dissolve parliament as well as appoint ministers, judges, and prosecutors without parliament’s consent. Under the new constitution, Erdogan would also be able to stay in power until 2029 (He has been Turkey’s head of state since 2003). Opponents of Turkey’s new constitution are afraid that these reforms will only give the current president more power and allow Turkey to become an authoritarian nation. Supporters assert that the new constitution will streamline government processes and modernize the country.
The Referendum Results
(photo credit-CNN Turkey)
The majority Kurdish southeast of Turkey, as well as all of Turkey’s large cities, voted against the new constitution. However, most of rural Turkey voted yes. The final results show an extremely narrow victory for supporters of the new constitution and Erdogan. Opponents of the new constitution are calling for a recount of votes because they suspect some illegal activity with regards to the counting of votes.