Written by 2:49 pm Lifestyle, Uncategorized

Erdogan’s Victory: Turkey Referendum


In a referendum this past Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his prime minister celebrated a great victory. The referendum in question was designed by Erdogan and his PM to bestow Erdogan with extensive powers.

The Turkish Election Commission has not yet divulged its official results, but the opposition has declared it intends to contest at least a third of the votes cast. However, according to the state-run Anadolu Agency, with 99.8% of the ballots already having been counted, it seems Erdogan won with 51.4% of votes.

Anadolu has revealed that a total of 47.5 million votes were cast.

The President of the Supreme Electoral Council, Sadi Guven, further confirmed that votes in favor of the referendum had been the most common, based on unofficial results he had access to. Guven stated that official results should arrive in roughly 10 days, after any protests had been given attention.

The passing of the referendum would change the Turkish government from a parliamentary system to a presidential one, thus endowing the president with an unforeseen amount of power. For example, the president would now hold sole executor powers, rather than the prior system of the president holding symbolic powers while the prime minister and government played the role of the active executors.

The new system also allows the president to be a member of a political party, whereas the previous system did not even allow for presidential alignment with a party. Furthermore, the president may now appoint 5 out of 13 Supreme Court member, as opposed to 4 out of 22, and the authority of the cabinet to publish decrees is transferred to the president instead.

Voters were asked to endorse this system change by voting “yes” to an 18-article reform package proposed by the Justice and Development Party in charge which would substitute the existing parliamentary democracy with a commanding executive presidency.

“God willing, these results will be the beginning of a new era in our country,” Erdogan declared at a news conference this past Sunday night as he informed viewers that unofficial totals implied the “yes” votes had triumphed by about 1.3 million ballots. Meanwhile, Anadolu estimated the amount of votes in favor to be closer to 1.14 million.

Various groups fighting in Syria tweeted their congratulations to Turkey after the unofficial results were divulged. Azerbaijani, Palestinian, Qatari, Pakistani, Hungarian, Macedonia, Saudi, Sudanese and Kenyan leaders also communicated congratulatory messages to Turkey’s Foreign Ministry, according to Anadolu.

Soon before Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım announced the results as having been a victory for Erdogan, thousands of people gathered in celebration at the headquarters of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, founded by Erdogan in Ankara. The jubilant citizens displayed their happiness for the presumed outcome as they danced, chanted, sang, lit flares, honked car horns and waved Turkish flags along with white flags saying, “Evet”—which means “yes” in Turkish.

Many of those present viewed the referendum’s impact as conveying a significant message to the world at large rather than just to the nation of Turkey. Wasin Yalcin, 24, declared the vote represented “a new hope for us to get rid of foreign forces.” Similarly, celebrator Yusuf Basaran, 20, revealed his hopeful belief that “Europe’s spine has cracked. This referendum will be the most effective thing in the rebirth of the Ottoman Empire.”

Aysel Can, a member of the AKP’s women’s branch, further supported the prior reactions by stating, “For a strong Islamic state, for a strong Middle East, Turkey had to switch to this executive presidency system. This is a message to the world to shut up; Turkey is getting stronger. America has to know this, too. We are the voice, we are the ears, we are everything for the Middle East.”

Erdogan called upon Yıldırım, in addition to the leaders of the right-wing National Movement and Great Unity parties, to offer “congratulations for the referendum victory” before the definitive vote count was even announced, according to Anadolu. Thus, Erdogan seemed to be very confident in the victory of his proposed referendum.

Yıldırım later stood in the spotlight at the Ankara AKP headquarters to publically announce a win for the “yes” vote. He emphasized the idea of continued national unity in his immediate declaration that those who voted yes and those who voted no remain one. Yıldırım continued on to say that, at the moment, Turkey intends to focus on improving the economy, furthering development and combating its international and domestic opponents.

“No one should have an offended or broken heart,” declared Yıldırım. “There’s no stopping. We will continue our path. We will continue marching on from where we left.”

The opposition received the results with weariness, declaring that the country’s electoral authority had opted to “change the rules in the middle of the game.” The High Electoral Board originally pronounced it would not accept ballots that were missing ballot commission stamps. However, the issue identified by the opposition with this is that the board modified these regulations after voting had already begun. The board then announced that it would accept unstamped ballots “unless they are proven to have been brought from outside.”

The opposition further expressed concern that this would influence the legitimacy of the vote and called for a partial recount of about 37% of the votes, according to Republican People’s Party (CHP) member Erdal Aksunger. He did not rule out the possibility of challenging a greater percentage of the ballots.

“The High Electoral Board has changed the rules after the voting started. There is a clear clause in electoral law saying unstamped ballots will be invalid and the High Electoral Board issued its notice in compliance with this law,” stated CHP deputy chairman Bulent Tezcan.

After the matter, CHP leader Kemal Kılıcdaroglu made the party’s position on the situation even clearer as he expressed his outrage in a news conference in saying: “On what grounds do you declare these valid? … You should not change the rules in the middle of the game. … This is not right. We will never accept this.”

Guvel, Supreme Electoral Council member, attempted to end the controversy in dismissively saying that the board has made similar decisions in the past. Despite his initial statement, he also went on to say that the board made the decision before results began being received, which would refute the claim that the rules were altered in the middle of the metaphorical game.

“Due to the complaints of non-stamped votes being given—with the request from the representative of AKP—our committee decided unless there is proof that they came from outside, we decided to accept non-stamped ballots and envelopes (as) valid,” Guvel clarified.

Erdogan, who cast his vote in Istanbul while under heavy security, said he yearned for the people to make the “expected” choice—meaning, he was calling on the people to support the increase in his presidential power.

Earlier on that same day, three people were reported to have died as a consequence of an exchange of gunfire close to a polling station in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır.

A violent quarrel was sparked at a polling place in the village of Yabanard. Two men, one of age 68 and the other 32, were shot after two families entered an argument, according to Anadolu.

A minibus in the midst of transporting the wounded men to Siverek Public Hospital was attacked by people with guns and stones. In the process of such, yet another villager was injured. All three victims died later that day, the news agency reported.

If officially passed, the measures will signify the largest constitutional upheaval in Turkey since its 1923 foundation, after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire which had long controlled the territory.

The changes brought about the implementation of these new reforms would solidify Erdogan’s hold on a nation whose divisions have only intensified after a failed coup attempt in July, which resulted in the deaths of more than 250 people and caused the imposition of a brutal suppression of the dissent.

Those in favor of the reforms are convinced that they will give new life to a sluggish economy and increase stability in Turkey, which has been facing the resurgence of a 30-year clash with militants from the Kurdistan Workers Party. Opponents, on the other hand, argue that the proposals will result in the formation of a constitutional dictatorship.

If Erdogan succeeds in the formal election results, as it seems likely based on the informal counts, his grip on power would be substantially tightened. For one thing, term limits for the presidency would be altered and, assuming he wins elections in both 2019 and 2024, he could tangibly remain in power as President of Turkey until 2029.

Following his position as prime minister for over ten years, Erdogan assumed the presidency in 2014. Relying on little more than his cult of personality, he transformed a widely ceremonial post one of considerable power and impact.

He has commenced an extensive suppression of opposition. This deepened after last year’s unsuccessful coup, which Erdogan blames on US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.

Critics believe this clampdown has been taken too far, extending past the supporters of the coup and is intended to silence dissent in the time leading up to the vote for the referendum. This would be a highly thought-out plot on the part of Erdogan to ensure that he did not lose any supporters, and thus not lose any votes in favor of his referendum, giving him a better chance at increasing his power.

The arrest of 47,155 government critics, intellectuals, journalists, military officials and civil servants have stimulated great global disapproval, and have worsened Turkey’s relations with the European Union.

Featured Image via Wikimedia

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