A bargaining chip on eve of referendum — Turkey-EU ties

A bargaining chip on eve of referendum — Turkey-EU ties
A bargaining chip on eve of referendum — Turkey-EU ties

16 April, 2017

In Turkey, people will vote in a referendum on a new political system on Sunday.

Ok, so what's going on?

The "Yes" camp say that the constitutional changes will herald a period of stability and prosperity, while its critics warn the reforms could lead to a system of autocratic one-man rule.

Erdogan's proposed system "has no parallel in the modern world", wrote Henri Barkey, the director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Also noticeable, the many posters supporting the Turkish President and the "Yes" campaign granting broad new powers.

Erdogan has made no secret of his desire to reshape the Turkish system.

Turkey's current constitution was produced in 1982 by a committee dominated largely by Turkey's military.

Erdogan said the proposed reforms could help counter a series of threats, including a failed military coup a year ago and a string of deadly bombings, some attributed to the Islamic State group.

According to the daily, three of the detainees were believed to be planning an attack in the name of IS, while two others, including one of Tajik origin, were captured for traveling to "conflict zones" and carrying out operations for the militant group in Istanbul. As part of the changes, both the office of the prime minister and the cabinet will be abolished while the president will acquire all executive powers with the authority to issue decrees on the state's structure as well as its functions. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim insisted the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) was as dedicated to a unitary structure as the nationalists and vowed to resign if the changes led to such a system. Its religious nationalism operates alongside laissez-faire attitudes toward business and economic reform.

If Erdogan loses, he will likely try to gain power through more controversial means. "I'm the son of farmers and now I'm becoming a scientist day by day".

He's sought to fix his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin - a staunch ally of the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad that Erdogan opposes - while threatening to reconsider ties with the European Union, a bloc Turkey had been trying to join for half a century.

He would also be able to appoint whoever he wanted to help him run the country.

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He has also vowed to review all ties with Europe after the vote.

Although opinion polls show the electorate nearly evenly split, the contest has not been an equal or fair one.

A supporter of the "NO" campaign holding a poster of Turkey's founder Kemal Ataturk, dances with others during a gathering ahead of the Sunday referendum, in Ankara, Turkey, Friday, April 14, 2017. Turkey's opposition is hampered by its own traditional fractures as well as the purges.

A young woman waves a HDP party flag as Kurdish people attend a rally of the opposition pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), on the eve of the constitutional referendum, on April 15, 2017 in Diyarbakir.

"Erdogan must convince the nationalists that he is the first of the Grey Wolves", said Akgonul.

What happens after what happens happens?

The April 4 attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun, blamed by many governments on the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, killed scores of people and prompted the United States to launch a missile strike on a Syrian air base in response. He will continue his divisive politics to shore up support for the AKP.

In recent years, Erdogan's clampdown and attempts to meddle in central bank policy have alienated foreign investors, with the lira losing a fifth of its value since the botched coup alone.

Concerns about how Mr Erdogan might use this power are not just theoretical.

Even then, the future still looks messy.

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