Turkey ahead of the constitutional referendum

The campaign for the referendum on April 16 is under way in Turkey. The parliament in Ankara gave the green light in mid-January for a constitutional amendment that could see the introduction of a presidential system in Turkey. With the help of votes from the far-right MHP, the ruling AKP achieved the majority it needed to hold a referendum on the reform. What would a presidential system mean for Turkey?

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Le Monde (FR) /

Turkey facing Putinisation

If the Yes vote wins President Erdoğan will disempower the Turkish parliament just as Vladimir Putin has done in Russia, Le Monde's Turkey correspondent and former Russia correspondent Marie Jégo warns:

“Not content to be the chief of the executive, the commander-in-chief of the army and the head of the intelligence services, Erdoğan will also be able to be the leader of his party, the AKP. That would put an end to the neutrality formerly demanded of the acting president. It would give him direct control over the lists of candidate MPs. Parliamentary elections would lose their substance because their results would not affect the composition of government. Ministers would no longer be obliged to answer to parliament, but would only be accountable to the president. Parliament would be no more than a registry chamber, like the Russian Duma.”

T24 (TR) /

Just one step away from dictatorship

The current situation in Turkey is a foretaste of Erdoğan's dictatorship which would be cemented with the approval of the presidential system, journalist Hasan Cemal laments in the liberal online paper T24:

“Erdoğan has declared that those who vote No in the referendum are terrorists. Courts are handing down prison sentences to journalists on charges of 'terrorism'. It's hard to believe but this is really happening. He is trampling on neutrality. He is destroying the separation of powers, He is disregarding freedom. But Erdoğan doesn't even care, as poisoned and drunk with power as he is. … In Turkey democracy, freedom and the rule of law have been derailed. The country is just one step away from naked dictatorship. If that step is taken on April 16 the regime's name will be 'dictatorship' and the name of the 'dictator' Erdoğan.”

Star (TR) /

Those with a nationalist soul will vote Yes

All patriotic citizens will vote Yes, the pro-government daily Star explains:

“A nationalist mindset will win out against all political, ideological or ethnic categories. Our Kurdish brothers who have distanced themselves from the terrorist organisation and have sided with the state are the greatest example of nationalism. Many people with very disparate political and ideological views and religious and ethnic backgrounds display the same resolve against threats like coups, terrorism and foreign intervention and fight against these dangers. … If the various circles with a 'nationalist soul' vote Yes the result will be far higher than the polls are now predicting.”

Hürriyet (TR) /

The tone makes the music

Although those who support the plans for a presidential system are in the majority, the number of those who want to vote No is rising, Hürriyet observes:

“What are the reasons for this negative mood? Firstly, the nay-sayers are depicted as PKK, IS or Fetö [Gülen movement] supporters. Secondly, the dismissal of academics by decree. … These developments are reinforcing negative perceptions of a one-man state and authoritarianism. The AKP experienced a similar situation in 2011. Back then its approval ratings began to drop as a result of a debate about the ethnic origins of [Alevi opposition leader] Kılıçdaroğlu. When he realised this Erdoğan changed his manner of speaking, began using less marginalising language and thus turned the tide of events.”

Berliner Zeitung (DE) /

The Turks knuckle under

There are specific reasons why the people of Turkey are being so passive in the face of authoritarian developments in the country, Berliner Zeitung explains:

“What is disconcerting is the lack of reaction on the part of the population - all the more so when you look at the mass protests at Donald Trump's investiture. According to surveys only 15 percent of Turkish voters even know what the constitutional amendment is about. Moreover, fear rules in the country. Tens of thousands lost their jobs or wound up in jail in the purges that followed the failed coup. It's questionable how fair a referendum can be under today's state of emergency. Now the people have the say. Pollsters anticipate a neck-and-neck race. But by the looks of it the gifted campaigner Erdoğan will also win this vote with the slogan 'It's either me or chaos'. So far the Turks have sided with him every time.”

Hürriyet Daily News (TR) /

Massive 'yes' campaign will overrun the country

The Turkish parliament's vote will be confirmed in the referendum, Yusuf Kanlı fears in Hürriyet Daily News:

“Some people continue to preserve optimism that democracy and common sense will prevail and at the end of the day Turks will vote for the defence of a democratic, secular governance instead of making the country a Middle Eastern autocracy. I seriously doubt it. Erdoğan launched the referendum campaign moments after parliament approved the constitutional amendment package on Jan. 21. He, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and his new-founded coalition partner the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) will use every possible opportunity, organize lavish inauguration ceremonies for trivial projects, repeat the same ceremonies, put every possible public funding into converting the referendum propaganda period into a massive 'yes' campaign.”