Much news made public concerning the Middle East currently revolves around the flash point in Syria and the endless war against ISIS. Little attention has been adequately given to the Turkish referendum vote that was held last night.
The central issues that the election centered on pertained to constitutional changes put forward by current Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling political party. The alterations to Turkey’s standing constitutional will solidify Erdoğan’s control over the government and grant the outspoken and radical politician near dictatorial powers while legally granting him the potential to remain in power until 2029.
The most dangerous outcome of the changes to the current power structure is the reduction of the Prime Minister’s power and the consolidation of judicial and legal powers under Erdoğan. The centralization of power would allow for the President to be able to reduce the impact and control of the Turkish Parliament over future actions.
Supporters argue that the bill will not grant Erdoğan free reign to rewrite existing laws without parliamentary approval but that hardly mitigates the dangers inherent in allowing a “loose cannon” such as Erdogan to circumvent the Parliament and ultimately the will of the Turkish people.
The vote was open to all Turkish citizens, both those at home in Turkey and the hundreds of thousands abroad who enjoy dual citizenship in their host nations and their home country.
Opponents of Erdoğan and the bill are claiming that there was never a “clean vote” and that the fact that votes without official authorization have been counted and are being allowed to swing the precious few percentage points needed to block the bill in Erdoğan’s favor. Much of this is being blamed on changes to counting procedure that occurred late in the voting cycle and are being accused of happening in order to rig the election.
The biggest point of contention is the fact that ballots would require official stamps administered at official polling stations in order to be counted as valid. This requirement has been discarded however as the vote has proved to be much closer than anticipated at a razor thin margin of 51% of voters in support while almost half of Turks, at 49%, were not in support of the bill.
Turkey's Electoral Board reportedly makes a last-minute ruling that ballots unsealed by local clerks are still valid https://t.co/B0I39vk0iw
— Noah Blaser (@nblaser18) April 16, 2017
The vote itself does offer hope for those who wish to see his powers limited though. The margin of support was far lower than expected and key opposition to the increase of powers was housed in major cities and economic hubs around Turkey, including the capital, Istanbul and the next two largest cities in the country. This opposition highlights the wariness of many Turks who may well share the worlds fears of an authoritarian Erdoğan dictatorship.
The vote has sent shock waves through the E.U. and has led to multiple leaders of the multi-government organization to call for a halt on relationships with Turkey and a freeze on any possibility for the nation to join the E.U. which is one of Erdoğan’s primary goals.
Europe is certainly wary of the entrenched leader who has riled his people against the E.U. on numerous occasions. One of the most recent and perhaps truly alarming incidents was the Presidents call upon his people to realize their potential and Europe’s future. He rallied Turks abroad to drown out the native populations of their host nations through overpopulation, calling on Turks to have multiple children with the aim of becoming the dominant race in Europe.
Other incendiary threats included a taunt that European’s would not walk their streets safely, a comment delivered just before the London terror attacks committed in March and the constant threat by Erdoğan to release the millions of refugees and migrants harbored in the nation upon a Europe that is at the brink with its refugee crises. The past few months have also seen Erdogan clash publicly with European leaders who have opposed his power and the bill, going so far as to call them “fascists” and “Nazi’s” and threaten mainland Europe with a future that will center around “wars of religion”.
Erdoğan, who borders on the extreme and radical in his views and actions, is also openly seeking the removal on a ban on the death penalty in Turkey, one need only imagine the efficiency he would demonstrate upon lifting the suspension to ensure the end of any political or religious dissent. The harsh methods implemented during last years coup by the Turkish president help to underscore his authoritarian tone and views and further reinforce the dangers of allowing him to reign unchecked in Turkey. There are plenty of previous examples related to his extremely thorough and violent purge of all opposition to himself and his party after the failed coup left 300 dead and thousands arrested, almost succeeded in dethroning the would be dictator from power in 2016. Suppression, imprisonment and even executions have been effectively and efficiently implemented in order to ensure the survival of Erdoğan and his government and would only be more thoroughly enforced by legal executions performed at his whim.
— RT (@RT_com) April 16, 2017
President Erdoğan has already seized the momentum to warn any and all opponents against challenging the results. He is no doubt aware that the need to consolidate and act quickly must happen in order to ensure his survival on the political sphere. The threats carry merit too in light of his willingness to suppress and silence opponents in Turkey, highlighted by the arrest of one of his loudest political opponents in the lead up to the vote as well as the severe restrictions on journalists and media practiced after last years coup attempt.
This startling and unfortunate turn of events in Turkey will likely have global ramifications as the rise of Erdoğan and the Turkey he desires has seemingly only just begun. As the crises in Syria and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan trudge on we must now begin casting a watchful eye on Turkey and the radical Islam it will no doubt sow in the wake of its rise to the world stage.