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Around 10:00pm local time on Sunday, April 16, Turkey voted “yes” in the groundbreaking referendum. While this may seem like general news to some, it is actually quite significant in terms of foreign relations and secularism.
Turkey has long been hailed as the most secular of the Islamic countries in this world. That is about to change. With the leadership of President Erdogan at the helm, the fate of Turkey is in dangerous hands. This referendum allows for the president to make any changes to the constitution as he pleases, and assume even more power over Turkey than before. The world has already seen how he wields his power: all to benefit himself and his needs.
This referendum allows Erdogan to assume full control over Turkey’s government, ending the original parliamentary political system. Besides the United States, in most countries around the world, the president is mostly a figurehead. It is the prime minister who holds the most power. However Erdogan, who has been the de facto leader of Turkey since 2014, does not have a constitutional right to wield so much power. This is part of the reason he held a referendum; he wanted to rewrite the constitution so that the role of the president becomes is the most powerful position in the nation.
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My mother had a colleague who was Turkish. In the times she would come over to our house, one way or another, the discussion would lead to the political turmoil in Turkey. She said that Erdogan has so much influence over the people, that most people do not care what they vote “yes” or “no” to. They want to keep him in power despite being blissfully unaware of his political agenda.
The propaganda campaigns that Erdogan had leading up to the referendum, were grossly unfair. Apparently, the promotional campaigns would glorify what a better country Turkey would be if the people voted “yes”. Even on the ballots, the “yes” area was in larger font, bigger, and bolder. The “no” part was nondescript and plain. In promotional campaigns even, it was grossly unfair as to how much attention was given to the preferred side of the referendum. Little attention was given to the opposition.
Turkey is a major external actor in the Syrian civil war. Its critical location is a sort of “gateway” between Europe and the Middle East. This nation also happens to be a major partner of both the U.S AND Russia. The current government advocated that this outcome will make for a new and improved Turkey. It will allow them to tackle the numerous problems the country currently faces. These include: a troubled economy, millions of Syrian refugees, and a brewing civil war between Kurdish insurgents, and the Syrian civil war.
When campaigning for the referendum, Erdogan made stops in both the Netherlands and Germany. When the nations’ officials refused to let him do so, he criticized them for their “Nazi-like” behavior. Turkey was on the cusp of joining the European Union. However, the behavior exhibited by Erdogan, combined with the fact that he wanted to reinstate the death penalty, among other things, further solidified that Turkey would never join among the ranks of countries like Germany or France.
Nations around the world, including the U.S, have spoken out against the unfair balance of power within Turkey’s corrupt government. But at this point, little can be done. Turkey holds a lot of the cards in how the debacle of the Syrian civil war and ISIS are going to pan out. The hope is the Turkish people realize the error of their ways, before it is too late.