Sunday, April 16, 2017

Sultan Erdogan Reigns!

"The new constitution will bring stability and trust that is needed for our country to develop and grow."
"Turkey can leap into the future."
"Is it a 'yes' for one nation? Is it a 'yes' for one flag? Is it a 'yes' for one homeland" Is it a 'yes' for one state?"
"Yes, yes, yes!"
"April 16 is the victory of all who said yes or no, of the whole 80 million, of the whole of Turkey of 780,000-square kilometers."
"God willing I believe our people will decide to open the path to much more rapid development. I believe in my people's democratic common sense."
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Istanbul, Turkey

"Turkey is at a junction. We will make our decision tomorrow. Do we want a democratic parliamentary system or do we want a one-man regime?"
Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader, Republican People's Party, Ankara, Turkey

"The referendum result is a clear sign that a societal agreement could not be reached." 
"Our co-chairs being jailed, the referendum being held under a state of emergency, and other oppressive measures cast a shadow and legitimacy problem over the vote.”
Osman Baydemir, HDP spokesman
Erdogan supporters celebrate in Istanbul.
Erdoğan supporters celebrate in Istanbul. Photograph: Huseyin Aldemir/Reuters

Not much separates the 'yes' from the 'no' ballots. Other than massive fraud. As, for example, when fraudulent ballots were handed out to voters, and when, right at the polling booth, 'ballots went unstamped, leading to an estimated 1.5-million votes falsely supporting the 'yes' campaign. This will surely rank as one of the world's most divisive political campaigns. Alienation? In spades! The nation's three largest and most important cities – Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir – voted against the changes.

How's that for national unity? This was a political campaign that gripped Turks by the very scruff of their necks. The turnout was massive, at 80% of people hoping against hope to turn the tide of Erdogan's self-empowering scheme into a personal caliphate. For an issue as weighted with obvious purpose and fated as this one, the scale hangs delicately on a sliver of assent in a historical vote that converts a nation to a dictatorship. The no vote came up with 48.7% as opposed to the 51.3% garnered for 'yes'.

The once-ceremonial role of the President has suddenly become, through this referendum, the all-powerful position without peer or restraints that has brought Recep Tayyip Erdogan to that very special place where he has long planned he would ascend to. The president of a completely altered Turkey now plans to reinstate the death penalty. He has extensive plans, no doubt, to empty the country's prisons of many of the political prisoners he has installed there, and sentencing some of his challengers to death is as good a way as any of silencing his detractors.

Turkey's mostly Kurdish southeast predictably voted overwhelming against the resolution, for all the good that did them and their imprisoned leaders. As for future prospects? Once the constitutional changes have taken effect, Mr. Erdogan will have the final satisfaction of power in his hands for the next dozen years at least; although he will campaign for re-election in 2019, he is a master manipulator and will serve two five-year terms, himself in firm control of the Justice and Development party.

A supporter of the 'Yes' campaign brandishes a picture of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan AFP/Getty

Those who voted 'yes' are happily complacent that in advancing the expansion of the president's power, a period of stability has been ushered into their country and prosperity will once again be certain to follow. The 'no' voters shudder at the prospect of increased autocratic sultan-type rule of a man who has long envisioned changing the country's system of government from parliamentary to presidential, with all executive power resting with himself.

Checks and balances will be slim to non-existent. The thousands of 'no' supporters who marched along the Bosphorus expressed themselves, but the polling booths expressed more emphatically. The lopsided campaign the opposition complained of, giving Erdogan the privilege of the full state resources dominating the airwaves with the governing party's messages, and with incidental intimidation, beatings and arbitrary detentions occurring here and there for emphasis, loading the dice.

The state of emergency remains in effect, after the failed coup of last year when a whopping 100,000 Turks lost their jobs, while another 40,000 were arrested. Security during the big event was well assured with Istanbul alone seeing 34,000 police deployed. Guaranteed will be ongoing conflict between security forces and Kurdish rebels. As for the deadly bombings that have terrorized the public, Islamic State, once dependent on Mr. Erdogan for his kind support, promises more of the same.

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