Referendum in Turkey: A Life-or-Death Issue - Ahmed Necip YILDIRIM - Turkish Referendum and Foreign Policy - Ahmed Necip YILDIRIM - Turkish Referendum and Foreign Policy

By Ahmed Necip YILDIRIM

Why Referendum in Turkey is a life-or-death matter?

In order to answer this question one needs to know the history of modern Turkey and the last two centuries of Ottoman Empire.

Turkey has been booming under the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from every aspect. The country wants to get rid of the stale old system. The country was frozen for over sixty years. A cult of “the establishment” was ruling the country for decades.

Leaders like Menderes, Özal and Erbakan were small deviations from the strict path the formulated by the establishment. Justice and Development Party founded by Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been the strongest anti-establishment movement in Turkey.

Turkey’s vision under Erdogan leadership is simple and clear:

Turkey wants to be independent!

Turkey wants to be democratic!

Turkey wants true justice in distribution of resources!

Turkey will no longer be under the control of a certain circle, well-connected to some international centres.

Turkey wants to be a superpower!

Turkey clearly claims the Ottoman legacy!

Turkey wants to decide the fate of its nation on its own!

Turkey wants to establish multidimensional relationship with different international powers.

No country, not source, no group, no organization… can dictate any policy to Turkey!

Turkey wants to end the terrorism on its lands!

Turkey will be ruled by the real owners of the country. Do you know who are they? They are those who have the same spirit as Sultan Sanjar, Sultan Alp Arslan, Osman Gazi, Fatih Sultan Mehmed; i.e. the Conquerors!

Those who do not share that spirit and those who hate to see Turkey rising are all aligned in one anti-Erdogan camp.

President Erdogan’s opponents claim that the constitutional change will bring about authoritarianism, entrenching dictatorship with unfettered powers. The biggest lie is that with this constitutional change, Erdogan is ostensibly trying to become a dictator. I am very doubtful if these guys have ever read any serious book on “Constitutional Law”. The majority of the people who negatively talk on the constitutional change do not even have a smattering knowledge what these changes are truly bringing about. When it comes to local values and future of the country anyone with an average commonsense would support such a change. For example, the nationalist party (MHP) has stood up to support the constitutional change.

So, the real struggle and conflict is not about the content or the formality of the change in constitution; it is more about the conflict between spirits. On the one hand, there are those who represent the Local, National, Conservative, Ottoman, adhering to traditional values. These are the people who want to see a new and strong Turkey which is holding the core values of Ottoman Empire. On the other hand, there are those who are against this world-view. The first group follow Erdogan and will say “Yes” to this referendum, while the second (anti-Erdogan) group will say “No”. This is the reason why opponents of the bill have fought it every step of the way to the referendum.

President Erdogan is blamed to be divisive. I believe he should be called “awaker”; the person who invoked Ottoman spirit. Self-confidence, decisiveness, determination, unity, solidarity has never been so widespread in the country.

No one is to blame the already alienated marginal groups. Even in Ottoman times, when the army was going for the war, there were small groups stabbing the country from the back. So there is nothing to be surprised about.

The existing constitution of Turkey was drawn up under the surveillance of military after the coup of 1980. Can you imagine: A democratic country living under a constitution that was drawn up under the shadow of a military coup.

The existing political system in Turkey is never suitable for a global power. The draft constitutional change would turn Turkey from a parliamentary system to a presidential republic. The new system is more akin to the United States.

The biggest political disaster in the history of modern Turkey has been the existing parliamentary system resulting in unwieldy coalitions that have hamstrung Turkey in the past and holding back Turkey’s progress.

The new draft constitution, that is to be put to a referendum scheduled for 16 April, will establish a presidential system. Similar to United States of America, the new constitution will significantly increase the powers of Turkish Presidency. The presidential system will consolidate a proper checks and balances system, like the United States.

The president will no longer be chosen by the parliament but directly by the people. The constitutional change will streamline decision-making as the presidents will not have to contend with another elected leader, the prime minister.

Progress and development in Turkey under Erdogan leadership has been simply astonishing. This constitutional change will pave the way for a long standing stride towards becoming a global actor.

By Ahmed Necip YILDIRIM

(Originally published in Turkey Tribune)