Photo: Doug Wilson –
Turkey voted Sunday on a referendum that would re-write the constitution and give Turkish Islamic Party (AK) President Tayyip Erdogan sweeping powers. The vote essentially ends parliamentary democracy by shifting all powers to the President. A yes vote is essentially a vote for dictatorship and will likely end the possibility of Turkey ever being invited into the EU. Early indications are that the referendum won, thus granting Erdogan widespread powers. Erdogan has already been in power for 15 years and freedoms have steadily eroded since his presidency. Tourism in Turkey has dramatically dropped off in recent years.
Turkey, a member of NATO, has been a key ally in the War on Terrorism and the fight against ISIS. Turkey has long played an important role as a partner to the U.S. because of their importance strategically and geographically. The U.S. and NATO have enjoyed an important military relationship including basing rights that have been critical to many recent contingencies. They have, up until now, provided the best example in the Middle East of how a democracy can work in a primarily Muslim country. Since Ataturk brought Turkey out of its backward days of the Ottoman Empire in 1923, Turkey has been a secular country with freedom of religion. In the past, when a leader came to power in Turkey who tried to desecularize the country, the military took over. Erdogan, during his reign, has purged the secularists from the military and has stacked the ranks with those sympathetic to Erdogan and the Islamic party. Since last summer’s attempted coup, Erdogan jailed up to 40,000 believed instigators and has purged many from the government, education, judiciary and military.
Sunday’s yes vote will certainly destabilize and divide the country and there are already accusations from the opposition about voter fraud. If the referendum prevails, this is a serious backward step for Turkey. The people of Turkey will quickly loose any freedoms that they still enjoy, and in the near term It will cause the west to re-think its relationship with Turkey and complicate NATO.