The Turkish Constitutional Referendum

The Turkish Constitutional Referendum

On April 16, Turkish citizens will vote in a constitutional referendum to either approve or reject eighteen amendments. If approved, the position of Prime MInister would be abolished and the president would gain executive power. The Parliament would increase from 550 seats to 600, and the president would gain more power over appointments in the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the current Turkish president, supports this referendum, arguing that it will bring stability in a nation that is in state of emergency.

The state of emergency began after the failed military coup on July, 2016. A faction of the military forces called the Peace at Home Council, which believed that there was a loss of secularism, human rights abuse, and less democracy in Turkey, led the coup for two days. They held several military officials hostage, bombed the Parliament and Presidential Palace, and fought the police forces in shootouts.  After two days, over 300 people were killed and over 2100 were injured. Erdogan declared Ankara a no-fly zone and a three-month long state of emergency, giving Erdogan more power.

After the ISIS attacks on New Year’s Eve, the Turkish government decided to prolong the state of emergency. Moreover, the country’s going through an economic slowdown, so Erdogan believes the state of emergency is necessary. During December of 2016 and the first few months of 2017, the Parliamentary Constitutional Commission approved 18 out of 21 proposed amendments to transform the Turkish Parliamentary system into Presidential System. Opposers to this reform are afraid that the president will obtain too much power and make Turkey a quasi-dictatorship.

As the day of the referendum approaches, both sides of the argument have made efforts to persuade voters, while the civilians live in hope for better times to come.

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