With the results of the Turkish constitutional referendum in, 58% of the electorate has voted ‘yes,’ thereby passing the amendments.
The ‘yes’ campaign was pushed by the government of the ruling AK Party, who said that the reforms were aimed at bringing the country more in line with the European Union, reforming the judiciary, and curbing the powers of the powerful Turkish military.
This last point was particularly stressed by the date chosen for the referendum, September 12, the 30th anniversary of the 1980 coup by the military.
Prime Minister Erdogan stated that the vote was symbolic, as it showed that Turkey had “crossed a historic threshold on the way to advanced democracy and the supremacy of law.”
The EU and the USA both welcomed the result.
The European Commission released a statement saying that, “the reforms are a step in the right direction as they address a number of long-standing priorities in Turkey’s efforts towards fully complying with the accession criteria.”
The White House released a statement, saying that President Obama “acknowledged the vibrancy of Turkey’s democracy as reflected in the turnout for referendum.”
The vote has been portrayed as a referendum on the ruling AKP itself, and not its reform package. Rusen Cakir, writing in the Turkish newspaper ‘Watan’, said that, “the referendum has been a vote of confidence for the government… the opposition parties followed the wrong strategy from the beginning.”
One of these opposition parties, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), released a statement saying that the result of the referendum had led to “a dark page in our (Turkey’s) history.”
Ilke Akdeniz, writing in an article on this website before the referendum, warned of the AKP attempting to bring about a “dictatorship.”
It is clear that there are now deep divides in Turkish society over which way the country goes forward. President Gul has urged both sides to reconcile, and it remains to be seen as to whether Prime Minister Erdogan can convince secular Turks that there is no hidden agenda, and also achieve the long term goal of joining the EU.
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