Evet or Hayır - referendum in Turkey

in a referendum on April 16, the Turks will vote on the introduction of a new presidential system that would see President Erdoğan's powers substantially increased. Opponents and supporters of the constitutional reform are neck and neck in the polls. Commentators complain about unequal conditions for the two camps in the campaign and argue that in the end Erdoğan only stands to lose.

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Sözcü (TR) /

AKP abusing state funds for Yes propaganda

Journalist Necati Doğru complains in Sözcü that state funding is being abused and the unequal campaign conditions work in the governing AK Party's favour:

“Public buildings have been plastered from top to bottom with Yes posters. Life-sized posters of the statesman who 'wants to be president and party leader' have been put up on mountain trails and at road junctions. Governors, district administrators, mayors and imams have been mobilised. Even schoolchildren have been taken to propaganda events for the Yes campaign on the grounds that they're being prepared for exams. The president, prime minister, ministers, advisors and party friends all fly in planes and helicopters paid for by the state to campaign for the referendum. ... They are abusing the administration and state funding for their propaganda, to win Yes votes. The people see these abuses of power and should teach these people a lesson.”

Adevărul (RO) /

Why Erdoğan has already lost

The Turkish president has suffered a defeat even before the referendum, Romanian MEP Cristian Preda writes in the blog Adevărul:

“Erdoğan's plan for gaining more power hasn't convinced anyone in Europe. There is no such presidential system practically anywhere on the Old Continent, and consequently it is viewed with considerable distrust. Nevertheless, this is not just a debate about political principles. ... The referendum campaign has intensified the people's distrust of the Erdoğan regime. This distrust was first awakened after the so-called Sultan's wave of arrests in the summer of 2016 and remains intact today. The result of the referendum is open, but one effect can already be seen: relations between Turkey and the EU have become considerably more tense. In the eyes of the Europeans, Erdoğan has already lost.”

El País (ES) /

Turkey has taken the place Spain once occupied

Europe once had closer ties with Turkey than with Spain - namely during the era of dictator Francisco Franco (1939-1975), El País points out:

“There was once a Turkey that we looked to with hope. It was just as European - or perhaps even more - as Spain in its vocation. And it was closer to becoming a member of the EU than we were. While Turkey became a founding member of Nato in 1949, Spain had to make do with a bilateral security agreement with the US in 1953. … Spain clung to the protection of the West but a small general with a moustache - a former friend of Hitler and Mussolini - made sure that it was embarrassing for the hosts to invite him to sit at the top table. … Turkey seems to be going backwards now, taking Spain's place and becoming that unpleasant guest that no one wants to have at their table but whose strategic importance forces all the foreign ministers to lower their voice, take a deep breath and look away.”

Milliyet (TR) /

A Yes for stability

A country with a strong leadership guarantees stability, journalist Nagehan Alçı stresses, making a case for the presidential system in Milliyet:

“In my opinion the keywords stability and performance are the main points that the AKP is using to describe and justify the intention of the referendum. Stability is the word that shows the advantages that phases of one-party leadership [between 1923 and 1945] have brought for the country. Therefore this term is indispensable to the success of the AKP government. The achievements and far-reaching progress that have been made in the country since 2002 are all thanks to stability. The AKP camp has put this term at the centre of its campaign. … On Sunday we will choose at the polls between preserving the current system and enhancing security, stability and performance.”

Die Welt (DE) /

If Erdoğan fails, chaos will ensue

A victory for Erdoğan in the Turkish referendum would be the lesser evil in the short term, Die Welt posits:

“Should President Erdoğan win the referendum and transform his country into an absolutist presidential system, in the first place it would bring stability to the country. The president would no doubt become more pragmatic and at least curtail the violations of basic democratic rights. An amnesty for political prisoners would then be on the cards. What's more, such a situation would lead to détente between Turkey and the West. ... And if the referendum fails? Then he'll try to call new elections as soon as possible. He would do his utmost to obtain a two-thirds majority in parliament, which would in turn allow him to push through his longed-for constitutional reform. Such a scenario would lead to huge instability and insecurity. Turkey would face chaotic times. Power technocrat Erdoğan would then use force and even violence to close the ranks behind him. And he would step up his policy of repression.”

Habertürk (TR) /

Market fluctuations guaranteed

There will be major market fluctuations after the referendum regardless of the results, journalist Abdurrahman Yıldırım predicts in the conservative daily Habertürk:

“If the polls produce a Yes, this could act as a short-term stimulant; it they produce a No it could result in a shock. Both reactions would however be limited to one day. The repercussions will depend on events after April 16. In the event of a Yes vote Erdoğan's policies will become very dominant and could trigger major turbulence on the markets. A No would raise the question of what direction the country's politics will take and whether or not early elections will be held. Either way we may experience major fluctuations the likes of which we had never seen before the vote.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Erdoğan dividing Turkish community in Europe

Turkish voters in the Netherlands have been very much influenced by Erdoğan's ruling AK Party regarding the controversial constitutional amendment, De Volkskrant complains:

“The Yes camp conducted an aggressive and intimidating campaign outside Turkey too. Turkish-Dutch voters who don't necessarily support Erdoğan have been bombarded via Diyanet [Turkish state] mosques, Turkish TV channels and social networks to such an extent that they fear for themselves and their relatives in Turkey. The Yes camp has deepened the rifts in Turkish community in the Netherlands. This is absolutely undesirable and lamentable. … Unfortunately there is barely any tolerance within the Turkish community for Turkish-Dutch who belong to the No camp. They therefore deserve our support and solidarity and even our admiration if they have the courage to openly voice their rejection of the Erdoğan regime.”

Sözcü (TR) /

No to one-man rule, yes to fair trials

A Turkish court ordered the release of 21 journalists and artists, only to have its decision overturned on the same day by another court. The Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) then suspended the prosecutor and judge who acted in the first case. Another reason to vote No in the referendum, writes journalist Emin Çölaşan in the Kemalist daily Sözcü:

“The HSYK's most recent suspensions are a message to the entire judiciary: 'Think three times about the consequences of such a decision!' What court can now acquit our colleagues from Cumhuriyet or other media? Is such a thing still possible? ... Again and again I have advised against voting Yes. If the Yes vote wins, the judiciary, starting with the Constitutional Court, will be entirely in the hands of the government. There is no one whose fate may not depend on a fair trial one day. Think about that.”

De Morgen (BE) /

Start an economic boycott

Turkish President Erdoğan's attacks against EU member states are above all meant to divert attention from his country's economic woes, De Morgen believes:

“Erdoğan will resort to any means to put himself in a good light: insults, agitation, threats, abuse of power, provocations. Saying that the Germans and Dutch are Nazis and fascists. ... That Dutch Blue Helmets murdered 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica. ... That Belgium supports terrorists. ... That the EU is undemocratic. ... When you see that a dictator is emerging, you have to raise your voice in protest. Erdoğan isn't mature enough for democracy. There's only one remedy for that: economic boycotts. As one of the biggest investors, the Dutch could start by discontinuing all ongoing projects. Europe could freeze all its aid funding. Putin would then do the rest.”

Die Presse (AT) /

Time to cancel holidays in Turkey

In the current situation everyone should think carefully about where they go on holiday, Die Presse advises:

“Against the background of recent developments in Turkey and the US one must ask oneself whether politics should also - or indeed must - play a role in such apolitical decisions as where people spend their holidays. ... Changes take place in a democracy when the people oppose their political leadership. And that only happens when the leaders' actions have tangible consequences: be those consequences an end to accession talks with the EU, or the economic measures with which the EU wants to react to Trump's protectionism. Or an important economic sector coming under pressure because people stop visiting these countries.”

Milliyet (TR) /

Turkey as paradise for appointments to office

Journalist Mehmet Tezkan warns in Milliyet that the constitutional amendment is a bad idea because it would give the president too much power:

“The new system can be summed up as follows: Turkey would elect a person. That person would appoint all the ministers, all the state secretaries, all the senior administration officials, all the ministerial officials, all the ambassadors, all the consuls, all the governors, all the police directors in the cities and districts, all the heads of school councils in the cities and districts, the president of the Committee for Religious Affairs, and all the muftis. And the list goes on: he would also appoint the chief of the general staff and the commander of the armed forces and of the army. This is why I say: Turkey would become a paradise for appointments to office.”