Turkey: 'no' to terror, 'yes' to authority
Istanbul — ''It was a no vote to terror and a yes vote to authority.''
This was how a noted Turkish commentator viewed the result of Sunday's referendum in Turkey on the controversial new Constitution.
The vote is also seen here as a personal victory for Gen. Kenan Evren, who as of Nov. 9, automatically becomes president of the republic for a period of seven years. ''Most Turks see Kenan Evren as a symbol of authority,'' the commentator said, ''and not of an authoritarian regime.''
More than 90 percent of the 20 million electors voted in favor of the Constitution in the country's first compulsory balloting. Although there was no doubt that the majority would approve it, the landslide triumph did surprise many observers.
Turkey's military rulers regard the result as a vote of confidence for their two-year-old administration. The military came to power through a bloodless coup in September 1980 as a response to mounting terrorism (claiming almost 20 lives per day) and the political leaders' inability to reduce the violence.
Critics of the Constitution and the regime seem to be upset by the overwhelming majority of affirmative votes throughout the country, including in areas considered strongholds of the political opponents.
Qualified observers here believe the following factors led to this outcome:
1. Most Turks have regarded the referendum not simply as a vote on the Constitution, but also, and probably mainly, as a ballot on General Evren and his regime. By attaching his election as president to the approval of the Constitution on the same vote, General Evren ensured wide support both for himself and for the new Constitution. The charismatic, fatherly, and popular figure of the silver-haired general certainly played a major role in this result.
2. The majority of Turks seem happy with the achievements of the present administration. Law and order have been restored in this terror-stricken nation, which has not forgotten the dark days of the 1970s. In his referendum campaign General Evren did not miss any opportunity to revive the bad memories of the recent past. He put the blame on the previous liberal Constitution and the uncompromising political leaders, and warned against the return to anarchy if the new Constitution was rejected.
The seizure of the Turkish consular missions in West Germany and the Netherlands by leftist Turkish militants on the eve of the referendum served notice justifying this warning. It appears to have had an impact on the voters.
3. Although criticism of the draft Constitution was allowed - and there were severe attacks on it - a ban was imposed on any negative comment about certain ''temporary articles'' annexed to the main text once it was approved by the military rulers.
These articles concerned Evren's automatic election at the referendum, the appointment of the four service commanders as members of a so-called Presidential Council for the period of six years after the general elections (expected next year), the total removal of former political leaders from the political scene for 10 years, as well as from the campaign speeches of General Evren.
This last measure silenced the opposition. Efforts by former leaders like Suleyman Demirel and Bulent Ecevit to encourage their followers to reject the Constitution failed to have an echo.
Some analysts believe that even if the former politicians were free to express their opposition to the Constitution, the majority of the electors (if not in such large numbers) would still have supported it.