Dark Cloud Over Turkey

The people of Turkey decided yesterday, 16 April, that they no longer wished to live in a democracy, and they voted to place more power in the hands of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.  Or did they? There is some dispute, since apparently the voting verification process of stamping ballots was skipped by officials on some 60% of ballots.  In some countries, this would be enough to make the voting null and void, and a new vote would be scheduled.  But Turkish officials have announced that they will accept the unstamped ballots as valid unless voter fraud can be proven.

The changes called for in the referendum would transform Turkey’s government from a democracy, though that term has been questionable for nearly a year now, to a near-autocracy.  To recap, as I wrote last month, the referendum would enable Erdoğan to make all government appointments, take back the leadership of the ruling party, and stay in power until 2029, pending presidential and general elections in 2019, with a maximum of two five-year terms. The proposed amendments would entirely abolish the Office of the Prime Minister.  One that threw up red flags for me is Article 84: The powers of Parliament to scrutinize ministers and hold the government to account are abolished.  And Article 98: The obligation of ministers to answer questions orally in Parliament is abolished.

The accountability of Erdoğan and his top echelons of government is now gone.  Erdoğan wasted no time asserting his new authority, announcing plans to immediately take steps toward re-instating the death penalty.

Since the failed coup in July, which many believe was at least partly orchestrated by Erdoğan himself, freedom of the press has become largely non-existent in Turkey, with some 230 journalists and media staff currently in prison.  Additionally, 41,000 people have been arrested, more than 100,000 people dismissed or suspended from government jobs while hundreds of media outlets, associations, businesses have been shut down since Erdoğan declared a “state of emergency” almost immediately after the coup attempt.

Though the referendum abolishes the office of Prime Minister, Prime Minister Yıldırım delivered a victory speech, saying, “Our nation has made its decision and said yes to the presidential system. The ballot box result showed we will not bow to traitors and terrorists. Turkey has won; our nation has won.” This puzzles me. The man’s position was just abolished, yet he is praising the decision.

The vote was “won” by a narrow margin, 51.37%, at the end of a bitter and divisive campaign.  The official results will not be final for over a week, and the opposition party claims that many votes were not counted, and they plan to contest as many as one-third of the ones that were counted.

Turkey, once eager to become a part of the European Union (EU) has long been straying away from the democratic freedoms that would have given them eligibility, but if Erdoğan successfully re-instates the death penalty, it will end any chance of Turkey joining the EU.  Since July, it has not seemed to matter to Erdoğan, and I suspect he gave up the notion long ago, using it only as a bone of contention for the past year.

This referendum can only be seen as a loss of freedom for the Turkish people, but what is puzzling to me is that so many people willingly bought into it.  I think there is a good chance that the actual ‘yes’ votes were less than a majority of 51.4% and that there was, in fact, some vote tampering.  Even so, there were obviously many supporters of the referendum, as evidenced by the celebrations held last night, and comments from citizens. “This is our opportunity to take back control of our country,” said self-employed Bayram Seker, 42, after voting “Yes” in Istanbul.

It will remain to be seen if challenges to the vote are successful, but my guess is they will not be.

I have drawn parallels many times in the past year between the situation in Turkey and that in the U.S.  I do so again today.  On the surface, Erdoğan and Trump would seem to have nothing in common.  Erdoğan is well-educated, well-spoken and intellectual, whereas Trump is the antithesis of all those things.  However, both have a love of power and will do whatever it takes to acquire ever more of it.  Both are threatened by a free press and will use whatever means at their disposal to squelch it. Both have extremely short fuses when opposed.  Neither are willing to put the welfare of their citizenry before their own personal lust for power. Both have shown, in their blatant disregard for the people of their nations, that they believe ‘the end justifies the means’.  And both have severely divided their nations without regard for what that may mean for the future.

As I write this, my heart aches for the people of Turkey, some of whom have yet to understand what the consequences of their decisions will be.  And my heart aches, also, for the people of the U.S., for the same reason.

10 thoughts on “Dark Cloud Over Turkey

  1. My word of the year comes out again: ‘grim’. The voting looks like it was massively flawed and the tourist areas so vital to the economy and the cities, who it seems voted on the ‘traitorous’ side, are not going to take this lying down I wouldn’t think. Definitely more dark clouds on the horizon. I feel like sitting in the occasional bust of sunshine and singing la la la, frankly.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, from everything I have read, the word that comes to mind is that the vote was a farce … and I think that any investigations will be stifled or run by Erdogan’s cronies. That’s 3 blows in the past year. France’s election is Sunday … fingers crossed that LePen is defeated! I shall join you, at least in spirit, in that burst of sunshine and sing la la la right along with you. I’ll even bring the wine! Perhaps some cheese and crackers, too! 🙂

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  2. Utterly depressing, but not surprising. I suspected he would win this, no matter if he would get enough votes (there are always ways…). Of course I still had hoped for a pleasant surprise … Sigh. The really crazy thing is that the Turkish community in Germany and the Netherlands voted YES in much higher percentages than the people actually living in the country. So they paved the way for dictatorship while continuing to enjoy all the freedoms they helped to abolish in Turkey. Ironic, isn’t it?

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    • Agreed. You know … on November 8th … actually the wee hours of the 9th … when it became clear that Hillary did not have a chance at winning the electoral vote … I went to the fridge, got a bottle of beer, and sat down and cried. I felt the same when it became obvious that the Turkish referendum was going to pass … I cried (skipped the beer, though, as it was midday). I do not for one moment believe this was a clean, untampered vote, but I do not believe all the protests in the world will change it. Like you, I thought it was a foregone conclusion a month ago, but I hoped I was wrong. Yes, I was surprised by the Turkish diaspora in the EU … I was so sure they would vote ‘no’ en masse. Now Sunday is the French election. I have my fingers crossed for LePen’s defeat, but guess I better drink lots of water on Saturday … all these tears are likely to cause severe dehydration! Sigh. Hugs, my friend!

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  3. There is no doubt that in his will to win the odds were on hi side due to tampering with the vote. Turkey will probably lose a lot of income now from tourism which will hurt the people. I fear Syria and Turkey banding together against the Kurds against whom both sides have waged war. Turkey has to leave NATO noe the battle lines are being drawn East against West.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

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    • As always, I am confused by the people who voted to support the referendum. I simply do not understand this populist/nationalist movement. But the whole process, from what I have read, was tainted and reeks of voting irregularities, if not downright fraud. Turkey & Syria … that’s an alliance I hadn’t considered before. Indeed, though, the divisions between East and West seem to be growing deeper. I just read that Trump called Erdogan to congratulate him. What a surprise, huh? I have no doubt at all that Trump has been thinking for quite some time about how he might make a similar move. In fact, with the hornet’s nest he has stirred with N. Korea, he may well use that as an excuse to delegate ‘extra power’ to his office. Next one I’m watching is France on the 23rd. LePen sounds like a female version of Donald Trump. I would think the French would look at the U.S. and say, “NO WAY!!!”, but I gather she still has pretty strong support. Sigh.

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      • She and her father before her have had strong support but it’s never been enough to get them in.I’m hoping that won’t change this time either. Holland who expected a win for their far right candidate last time found he was virtually ignored. If common sense doesn’t prevail in France I can’t see how the EU can survive as LePen’s philosophy is not inclined towards Federalism and the French people themselves have in the past shown they are disgruntled with the Union.
        The World constantly surprises me as with Trump. He might be surprised if Russia.now having Turkey as well as Syria as allies doesn’t think about removing US influence and interests in that part of the World.
        xxx Cwtch Mawr xxx

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        • Yes, from what I have read, LePen’s father was quite a bigot and anti-Semite. I’ve also read that LePen would return to the franc and have a “Frexit” referendum. I, too, fear for the future of the EU if she should win the election. Brexit, Trump, Erdogan … enough, I say! Granted, there are global problems, particularly with regard to the refugee crisis, but this rigid nationalist movement is, as I see it, a step in the wrong direction.

          And yes, I believe that Putin has used Trump … continues to use him … and that when he has gotten what he wanted from him, he will cut him loose. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we need an independent investigation into Trump & Co.’s Russian ties and election rigging so that we can demand Congress begin impeachment proceedings. Preferably before he destroys our nation! As our friend Roger has taught me to say, “Oh woe, woe and thrice woe!”

          Hugs, hugs and thrice hugs, my friend!

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  4. Dear Jill,
    How does Turkey continue to be a NATO member as this country’s governing body is no longer a reliable ally and friend? It has been a member since 1952. Now Turkey and Russia are friends. It is time to face reality. Turkey has to be expelled. This time, the U.S. need not be restrained from showing favoritism to the Kurds, a PEOPLES hated by the Turks but who have assisted the U.S. in the war against ISIS.

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    • Since Turkey has more adversaries than allies within NATO, and their participation has been quite limited, I suspect it is only a matter of time before they are no longer a part of NATO. I just read that DDT called Erdogan to congratulate him. Of course. I’m sure DDT is trying to figure out how he can make a similar move. Hugs, my friend!

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