This article was written by Marin Constantin-Alexandru

In 1915, the Ottoman Empire won the Gallipoli battle against the Allies. That was a resounding victory, that on the political dimension was similar to the rise to power of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the modern republic in 1923. The 16th of April 2017 is, in Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s opinion, the date of a new battle for independence through referendum. From the very beginning, he used the historical marks, the national symbolism and mythology to make appeal to the emotional side of the Turkish people. However, the analogy with the battle of Gallipoli and the personality of Atatürk are inconsequent for anyone who knows the history of modern Turkey.

The pressures for this referendum have started in 2014, when Erdoğan conducted an aggressive presidential campaign, then continued in 2015 with the occasion of the general elections won by AKP (Justice and Development Party) and amplified during 2016 and the first part of 2017, when the President stretched his muscles against the European Union, especially Germany and Netherlands. Even the Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, was relieved from his position after criticizing Erdoğan’s intention to organize a referendum on the issue of constitutional changes. The actual enemy for Erdoğan is a diffuse amalgam containing: the Occident, the Kurdish terrorists, the leftists and atheists, the internal opposition, and the Jihadist terrorist organizations. With a favorable result, the future of Turkey will be structured around the Islamist identity, with a progressive segregation between men and women, and with an aspiration for bringing back the heritage of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Renaissance would be guaranteed and also the end of Atatürk’s republic.

The constitutional referendum in Turkey is the final step in defining the process of Erdoganization, meaning the transformation of the republic in a ”legal” autocracy. It is supported by AKP and MHP (Nationalist Movement Party), a party that is eurosceptic and ultranationalist in nature. A de facto sultanate will be established if the population votes ”Yes” in the referendum. According to the polls, the result appears to be close, with a small advantage for the pro-Erdoğan party (51-52% according to Reuters). With a silent political opposition, a non-existing media, and discretionary threats for those who are against President’s policies, a Yes scenario is not just a pessimistic, but a predictable one. Nevertheless, whichever side claims victory on Sunday, things will never be the same in Turkey.

Opinion Polling for the Turkish Constitutional Referendum, 2017 (Source:
Yes – White; No – Brown; Undecided – Grey

What made Erdoğan to accelerate the referendum operation was the coup d’état attempt in the summer of 2016, when his autocratic regime and personal power were in great danger. In the aftermath of the event, the President of Turkey accused the head of United States Central Command, chief General Joseph Votel of “siding with coup plotters”. This happened after Votel accused the Turkish government of arresting the Pentagon’s contacts in Turkey. Invoking the interference of external powers, Erdoğan’s actions seem legitimate and justified in the eyes of his supporters, who will definitely be the Yes Men on the 16th of April.

The eighteen amendments to the Constitution presume the following:
– the changing of President’s prerogatives, he will not be just the chief of State, but he will concentrate the entire executive power;
– the President can candidate for another two mandates, until 2029, having, also, the possibility to maintain the control of AKP, without renouncing to his function as president of the party;
– in what regards the judiciary system, the President gains new powers, being able to name four members in the Council for Judges and Prosecutors (reduced to only 13 members, from the initial 22);
– concerning the state security policy, the President, under the amendments, determines the entire security spectrum, naming the Executive Officer, the members of the National Security Council and of the intelligence services.

Against this potential monopolization of the executive power, virtually stand the CHP (Republican People’s Party) founded by Atatürk in 1923, HDP (People’s Democratic Party), the civil society and a few minority groups, whose opposition is not so vocal in order to slow down the Erdoğan phenomenon. The smattering of democracy that still exists in Turkey could suddenly end, in the eventuality of the pro-President party victory. The European leaders did not believe anymore in the adherence of Turkey to the E.U., so as for them the referendum is already a failure. The only cooperation that could still stay in place is the economic one, although even it could be canceled after the innumerable cases of human rights abuses and of the rule of law. A victory for Erdoğan would sanctify the seizing of state power, and would make him an example for other authoritarian leaders, with catastrophic consequences, both at the national and international levels.

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