Turkish community living in Germany react after the results of the referendum, April 15 - AFP
Democracy is coming to a “democratic” end in Turkey with what Erdogan claims to be a necesary overhaul of the Turkish constitution.
After jailing over 47,000 citizens and suspending more than 120,000 others from governmental jobs including police, judges, soldiers and schoolteachers, Erdogan nevertheless fell back on a democratic tool to further his needs: a referendum calling for constitutional changes. The changes would allow him ultimate power over all civilian sectors and could keep him in power until 2029 or beyond. Meet Turkey’s “New Sultan.”
As Sunday’s referendum results revealed, the proposed changes got strong backing in conservative rural areas, but were strongly opposed in major cities, especially in the Kurdish-dominated southeast.
The result was 51.4 percent in favor of the changes and 48.6 percent against. Much like the way Islamists in Egypt mobilized their voters, Erdogan won his “highly doubted fake” votes, effectively convincing supporters of is ideology into voting yes to the constitutional changes that would obliterate their country’s past democratic history.
Yes, democracy is history for Turkey now, and the countries Erdogan has long criticized look likely to overtake Turkey in the race to democracy and welfare of the people, while he will have to face deep divisions and the possibility of unrest.
Is Erdogan claiming a battle against the military, the Kurds or the secular elite?
With no parliament, no strong military institutions, and an amended constitution that creates a legitimate authotarian and dictator, the pillars of the Turkish state as envisioned by Ataturk will come tumbling down. Already there are rifts among the nation. The referendum Erdogan called for was criticized for boiling down 18 complex issues into a single “yes” or “no” ballot. After the scandal of unstamped ballots, Turkish opposition parties such as The People's Republican Party (CHP) are calling for the annulment of the referendum and said they would take their case to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary.
The constitutional referendum will abolish parliament and give most of its powers to the presidency. Ultimate power over judicial authorities, budget drafts, declaration of state emergency and issuing decrees to supervise ministries without the approval of parliament are only some of the authorities Erdogan is set to gain.
Erdogan would do well to tread cautiously: that absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Speaking of Europe and European values
Europe has created a monster as a result of their failed foreign policy. While placing too much focus on regime changes and imposition of European values (their version of freedoms and democracy) on the Middle East, they neglected to follow the storm brewing in Turkey.
Pushing forward for a role in the Middle East after the void left by the Obama administration, Erdogan sought a revival of the Ottoman Empire, to become the sultan of his region. What he doesn’t seem to grasp is that the era of empires, especially the Ottoman one, is over.
Erdogan has consistently worked to bring down his own army, pulling the plug on a number of military institutions like the military college. He even gave himself the right to assign the commander of chief and bring him into to the presidency cabinet. That’s worth a thought: Erdogan is terrified by any possible political role the Turkish army might play and thinks he has himself covered by NATO, but there is rising discontent with his policies and his steady steps toward authotarian rule in Europe. He does not seem to understand the exact role of NATO and its political nature. One of NATO’s political roles is “promotion of democratic values and encouraging consultation and cooperation on defence and security issues to build trust and, in the long run, prevent conflict.”
If Erdogan does not choose his next steps well the Turkish state could become a NATO target one day if he continues to subject Europe’s security and stability to danger and in the process lose the privilege Turkey always had as a mediator between the West and the East, and shredding European values.
Erdogan’s words might be the last nail in his coffin. “The crusader mentality of the West and its servants at home have attacked us. We have put up a fight against the powerful nations of the world. We did not succumb. As a nation we stood strong,” he announced, pushing Turkey further away from the EU.
The question is, why is the EU so silent about what’s taking place on its borders?
The European leaders’ statement over the constitutional changes of Turkey under Erdogan is very weak, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, in a joint statement with the Foreign Minister, that the German government expects the Turkish government to seek a “respectful” dialogue with political and social forces in Turkey. After jailing masses and prosecuting the opposition, would Erdogan listen to the voices of division in his own society?
This week’s constitutional amendments also contain within their modified articles, the revival of death penalties in Turkey. The president of the European Parliament has already stated that a death penalty legislation would be a “red line” for the European Union, even as an Austrianmember of the Council of Europe’s observer mission cast doubts on the validity of up to 2.5 million ballots in the vote. How many “red lines” does the EU need Erdogan to cross before they make more powerful statements like those we hear about the Middle East?
While the international community closely observes the blatant fraud of the referendum, Erdogan calls countries and institutions of the world to respect it, and calls for “allies” to show “awareness” of Turkey's "sensitivities" in the "fight against terror."
As Danish Prime Minister Lars Lok ke Rasmussen commented on Twitter, it is,“Strange to see democracy restrict democracy.”