Erdogan Wins Narrow Verdict for a Constitutional Dictatorship, Image: en.kremlin.ru
Erdogan appears to have pulled off his attempt to centralise all powers in an executive presidency, winning the Turkish referendum by a narrow 2% margin. Even though the April 16 vote shows a deeply divided Turkey, Erdogan and his party are claiming “victory” in rewriting Turkey's secular constitution and replacing the Parliamentary form of government that has been in place since 1980. With this “success”, Erdogan will manage to increase his powers enormously, and could be in office till 2029.
Erdogan was backed in this constitutional coup by the extreme right National Movement Party or MHP. It was opposed by the centre-right Republican Peoples' Party or CHP, the centre left pro-Kurdish HDP, and the Communist Party, the TKP.
The Turkish opposition parties had said that the referendum text gives the president the state's entire executive power, some legislative powers through decrees and judicial powers through appointments. The CHP Member of Parliament Mustafa Sezgin Tanrikulu, who is also a human rights lawyer, had said, "This is a bill that will move Turkey away from the principles of democracy and the rule of law."
The referendum for an executive presidency and centralising all powers with the president, must be seen in the context of Erdogan crushing all dissent in the wake of the attempted military coup last year. While blaming the US and Gulenist forces (followers of Fetullah Gulen, a Turkish preacher in voluntary exile in the US), Erdogan's government has dismissed more than 120,000 government servants and school teachers and arrested over 400,000 people. This includes major figures from the HDP, which has won significant support in the Kurdish regions and among the left and secular sections of Turkish society. This, in spite of all opposition parties including the HDP having opposed the military coup.
HDP leaders and their MP's have been arrested in November last year, for supporting the outlawed PKK, the Kurdish party fighting for Kurdish autonomy and self-rule. Turkish government prosecutors are seeking a jail term of up to 142 years for the HDP Co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş and up to 83 years for the party’s other co-chair, Figen Yüksekdağ.
The opposition parties are proposing to challenge the results of the referendum. Already protests have broken out in many cities, with people protesting beating pans and pots. More street protests are expected to take place once the results are declared.