EU relations

Time to Rethink Turkey

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Turkey has never been as internationally isolated as it following last weekend’s referendum on increasing the powers of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

  • Facts


    • In a vote on Sunday, Turks narrowly voted to give their president wide-ranging executive powers.
    • Critics have called the move antidemocratic.
    • Turkey is currently in talks with the EU about joining the bloc.
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Turkey Referendum
The EU's new bogeyman. Source: AP

Recep Tayyip Erdogan believes he has reached his goal. Welcome to the Islamic Republic of Turkey – based not on the Shiite-Iranian model but on a conservative, Sunni notion.

Democratic institutions such as political parties and the parliament remain but have become meaningless. The entire nation is Islamic and characterized by a leader who derives his legitimacy and charisma from religion. There will no longer be independent institutions such as the judiciary; everything is subject to the will of the president. Contrarian thinkers are only tolerated to the extent that they make no waves.

Or is the President mistaken? The vote of 51.3 percent in favor of changing the constitution on Sunday doesn’t point to an overwhelming majority. How would the referendum have turned out if opponents had been given the chance to conduct a real electoral campaign? The state of emergency forced them to lie low. Hanging above them is the sword of Damocles of being labeled “terrorist” sympathizers – whether of the religious Gulen Movement or the Kurdish separatist PKK.

Along the western and southern coasts of the country as well as in the Kurdish regions of the east and southeast, the constitutional change was rejected by sometimes massive majorities. How can President Erdogan integrate this half of the population into his project of a “new Turkey”?

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