Turkey Passes Referendum Increasing Presidential Authority

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. By World Economic Forum from Cologny, Switzerland - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2006, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3532340Copyright by World Economic Forum swiss-image.ch/Photo by E.T. Studhalter

A referendum in Turkey narrowly passed, with 51.3% of the votes supporting the proposal. The referendum allows the current parliamentary system to be replaced with an executive presidency. The winner of the next presidential election in 2019 will have full control over the government, and the post of prime minister of Turkey will be eliminated. The referendum also sets the presidential term to two five-year terms, however, the president can run for a third term if early elections are called.

Reuters reported that Trump called Erdoğan to congratulate him on the passing of the referendum that greatly increases his power.  

The current Turkish president is Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has been in power since 2014. He was previously the 25th prime minister, from 2003 to 2014. He belongs to the Justice and Development Party (AKP), a conservative political party.

In 2008, Turkey’s chief prosecutor called for AKP to be banned from politics, after accusations that AKP is attempting to undermine the secular system in place since 1923. Opposition of AKP used the party’s attempt to loosen the ban of the headscarf in public institutions as evidence of a move away from secularism. The Constitutional Court ultimately decided not to ban AKP, but decreased their funding by 50%.

In July 2016, there was a failed coup in Turkey that resulted in 265 deaths, 161 of them being civilian deaths. The coup led to 3,000 arrests of soldiers involved in the planning and execution. Turkey has been in a state of emergency since the failed coup, allowing 45,000 people to be arrested who have been accused of connection to the coup.

There have been many complaints of election fraud since the vote, as well as accusations of an unfair campaign. The opposition party, The Republican People’s Party (CHP) has contested the vote and is investigating accusations of election fraud.

Supporters of the referendum argue that Turkey needs a more centralized government considering the instability caused by the war in Syria and conflict with Kurdish insurgent forces. Turkey currently has the largest population of Syrian refugees, estimated at 2.5 million. In recent years, Turkey has been faced with a troubled economy during the AKP leadership.

In his victory speech, Erdoğan said he is looking to restore the death penalty, however this move would end chances that Turkey would join the European Union.

In his victory speech, Erdoğan stated his support for the death penalty. If he restores the death penalty, Turkey will not be able to join the European Union.