Today, Turkey holds a referendum that if passed, will change the Constitution and fundamentally alter the political balance of power in Turkey.
The proposed changes would make Turkey’s’ President, a post currently held by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, an ultra-powerful and largely unaccountable position.
The referendum would abolish the all ready weakened post of Prime Minister and allow the President to personally appoint his ministers, independent of Parliament.
The judiciary which traditionally exercised a powerful role in restraining powerful individual Turkish leaders and typically had a Kemalist interpretation of Turkish law, is to be substantially weakened. Turkey’s judges have represented the biggest stumbling block in Erdogan’s path to guiding Turkey further from secular government.
The reforms would further allow Erdogan to issue his own emergency Presidential decrees, call elections whenever he wants and personally enact new laws.
There is a possibility that Erdogan could use the reforms to remain in power until 2029, by which time he would be 74 years of age.
The election campaign has been filled with ultra-nationalist and neo-Ottoman rhetoric from Erdogan and his supporters. After one Turkish official was expelled from The Netherlands and another was refused entry into the country, Erdogan made anti-Europeanism a prominent theme of the election.
The all ready powerful Turkish President has promised that Europe ‘will pay’ for ‘humiliating and oppressing Turks‘.
The latest polling data from Turkish pollster Konda puts the ‘YES’ vote narrowly ahead.
The possibility of voter intimidation by Erdogan’s often militant supporters as well as the looming threat of terrorism from Salifist groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda, in addition to Kurdish nationalist terrorism, could threaten the peaceful execution of the election process.
In spite of this, it is becoming increasingly unlikely that Erdogan could loss the vote in a country where at least politically, he almost always gets his way.