Turkey referendum boosts Erdogan's Islam-rooted AKP party
Today's Turkey referendum resulted in a significant boost to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling AKP party as voters approved 26 amendments to the country's 1982 Constitution.
Voters approved 26 amendments to Turkey's Constitution on Sunday in a bitterly contested referendum that has exposed the depth of social divisions in the country.Skip to next paragraph
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In the simple “yes” or “no” ballot, 58 percent voted for changes to the charter written in the aftermath of a 1982 military coup. Some 42 percent voted against the amendments, leaving a 16-point margin of victory – far larger than most polls predicted.
Mr. Erdogan fought off a stiff challenge from opponents convinced the changes would compromise the judiciary and cement power by the Islam-rooted party. After all, two of the amendments give the government much greater influence over the judiciary – seen by many Turks as one of the last guarantors of the secular tradition enshrined by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk when he forged modern Turkey in 1923. But Erdogan and his supporters claim that the changes are necessary to democratize the country in line with European standards and make the military more accountable to civilian rule.
"We have passed a historic threshold on the way to advanced democracy and the supremacy of law," said Erdogan to applause from supporters gathered to celebrate the victory. "Supporters of military intervention and coups are the losers tonight."
The divisions could easily be seen in a single polling station in downtown Istanbul, where both sides lined up to vote.
“This is a radical decision point for the future of Turkey,” said lawyer Baris Aslan as he stood outside the Cihangir Primary School, where more than 5,000 people were registered to vote at 13 ballot boxes. “This is the spot between the religious and the secular, between despotism or democracy. I voted ‘no.’”
Mr. Aslan said that the changes had been prepared by “the Islamist party” and “without the input of the people."
"They are asking – in fact threatening – people to vote 'yes,' " said Aslan. "The Prime Minister said if you do not take part, you will be ‘eliminated.’ What does that mean? That you will no longer be a Turk?”
Echoing critics from nationalist parties who, during eight years of AKP rule, have been dismayed at the erosion of the military’s role in Turkish society, and the failure of the powerful judiciary to stop the AKP, Aslan said the vote was about “trust” in the government.