On the 16th of April 2017, a constitutional referendum was held throughout Turkey in which the citizens were deciding on whether to approve of eighteen proposed amendments to the Turkish constitution. The amendments in question reduced the powers of Parliament and allowed the President to do away with the post of Prime Minister among a slew of other changes that would grant more powers to the Presidency. In effect, the people of Turkey were to decide for themselves whether they should abolish the checks and balances that had kept them safe from abuse of Power at a presidential level and slide willingly into a dictatorship. Coming in the wake of authoritarian tendencies by the current regime under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the amendments portended a bleak future for democracy and freedom in Turkey and promised to leave the people of Turkey unprotected and exposed to a vicious power-hungry regime (Recep Tayyip Erdogan gets the power he has long wanted at a cost, 2017). The approval vote by the People of Turkey to legalize the amendments is a watershed moment in the history of Turkey. This essay will examine one journalistic account of the historic incident and attempt to predict the impact of this referendum in world history.
In an article titled Recep Tayyip Gets the Power He Has Long Wanted- At A Cost that was published by the Economist, the author expresses concerns about the manner in which the referendum was held and in which the results were announced and received. The article contends that the referendum which was opposed by nearly half of all the voters puts into effect the most radical overhaul of Turkeys government since 1923 when it transformed from a powerful Islamic Empire to a modern secular government (Recep Tayyip Erdogan gets the power he has long wanted at a cost, 2017). The author is concerned about the conditions in which the referendum was held and the legitimacy of the results. Since the attempted coup in Turkey in 2016, the government has cracked down on perceived dissidents from all walks of life including journalists, judges and members of parliament. The article contends that these were not ideal conditions to hold a referendum and cites the discontent of the losing side to challenge the legitimacy of the results.
The referendum is historic in nature because it marks the most radical overhaul in Turkeys government since 1923. As the article states, Recep may be the most unassailable leader since Ataturk, the father of modern Turkey. The referendum by the sheer magnitude of the changes it proposes to the government was just the right kind of event to mark a spectacular tenure by Erdogan (Recep Tayyip Erdogan gets the power he has long wanted at a cost, 2017). However, how does this referendum fit in the history of Europe and the Middle East, the two major regions which Turkey bridges especially considering recent geopolitical happenings? Erdogans government has been holding accession talks with the European Union and may be on its way to achieving membership status of the Union. However, the article refers to these talks as comatose implying they might stall for good. If Turkey loses this chance of acceding to the European Union, Europe will lack a much-needed gateway to the Middle East. Furthermore, the major European Union nations did not comment on the legitimacy of the polls which observer groups found questionable. Will this referendum affect Turkeys chance of joining the Union?
The geographical position of Turkey straddling the East and the West places it at the center of a maelstrom which she is still trying to figure out. On one hand, Turkey strives to commit to the democratic ideals of the West while on the other it is slowly sliding into despotic regimes like the ones that the Arab world is struggling to rid itself of. Its position in international politics as an ally of the West means it may not receive the same treatment as other Middle Eastern countries. How Turkey and the World respond to this referendum will be of significant international bearing for many years to come.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan gets the power he has long wantedat a cost. (2017). Economist.com. Retrieved 22 April 2017, from http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21720911-turkey-votes-yes-radical-overhaul-state-recep-tayyip-erdogan-gets-power-he-has
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