Fridi (luvdovz) wrote in talk_politics,

Turkey votes

Today, over 55 million Turkish citizens are voting to decide if they want a presidential republic. The whole country is pretty excited about the whole thing. There's nationwide ban on public campaigning on the voting day, the media are not allowed to announce exit poll results or air political adverts, or discuss the vote with politicians or experts, so we won't know the final result until tomorrow morning.

Actually the voting itself is not secret. A special stamp is given to the voter, then they put it either on the Yes or No option. 3 million Turkish expats were the first to cast their ballot, most did it a week ago. The preliminary polls showed a very tight race, with the Yes camp having a slight edge.

But why was the whole exercise needed? Well, you'd think president Erdogan wants to take the whole power in the country. But in fact he already has it de facto. After the June 15 coup attempt last year, Turkey has been in a state of emergency, which Erdogan is frequently extending. Since then, he's practically turned Turkey into a dictatorship. He has all the power, there are no checks on him, he's in full control. So there are no obstacles to expand that and legitimize it.

So he's planning a 18-poin constitutional reform, which, if accepted by the majority of voters, would destroy the Kemalist legacy and make Turkey a presidential republic. Or rather, a quasi-Sultanate. On paper, the changes are supposed to bring a system that's very similar to the US one. Erdogan is trying to consolidate his power through a democratic act, the referendum. Which is why we shouldn't expect blatant fraud and vote manipulation. This is also why the ruling Justice and Development Party has thrown so much effort into the Yes campaign for the last few months.

A big, open economy like Turkey is critically dependent on foreign investment, foreign loans and foreign markets. And because Erdogan is not stupid, he knows he should treat lightly here, and legitimize the power he grabbed after he coup attempt. This way no one would be able to criticize him for what he's about to do next.

Things are looking bright from a Turkish perspective. The economy has tremendous potential for development. Turkey has the largest share of young population in Europe, over 16% of the nearly 80 million Turkish citizens are 24 or younger. The GDP is 718 billion dollars. The medium salary is about 550 euro. And the minimum wage is 455 euro. Turkey has the potential to be the driving engine of the Balkan economy, similarly to Germany for Central and Eastern Europe.

Turkey's problem is not economic, it's political. There are too many internal cracks and divisions in their society. And Erdogan's actions haven't helped much in that respect, because he has shown he's not prone to compromise. Just on the contrary. The recent weeks and months have seen a sharpening of his tone towards Europe, and a general escalation with just about everyone. Erdogan tried to directly intervene in the elections of a neighboring country, and used the Turk diaspora in Europe as a tool for political pressure. He's been waving the refugee card into EU's face for months already, threatening to terminate the Turkey-EU agreement and unleash a migrant deluge onto Europe again.

The big problem with Erdogan's doctrine is that he's pushing Islamist ideas and has shown time and time again that he sees himself as an heir of the Ottoman sultans rather than a democratic, modern leader of the Kemalist tradition. His actions after the failed coup are testament to this, he has resorted to authoritarian terror, jailing tens of thousands of his opponents, holding them behind bars without trial and sentence. He has nationalized major private companies and media, clearing his way of potential threats to his position. Now he's planning to bring back the death sentence. That's why if he consolidates his power with a win in the referendum, that would be bad news for the whole region.
Tags: constitution, dictatorship, turkey
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