On Sunday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey hopes to win a referendum that would neuter the country’s parliamentary democracy and transform him into an “executive president.”
This is Mr. Erdogan’s naked attempt to turn Turkey into what will effectively be a dictatorship, and allow him to cement his control over the country. He has already served three terms as prime minister, from 2003 to 2014. Then he became president. If he is elected executive president after the referendum, as he no doubt would be, he could well be in power until 2029 – based on the generous term limits available with the job.
Under his proposed constitution, the executive president would not be answerable to the courts, or accountable in any way to the Turkish parliament.
It would also allow the new leader, a.k.a. Mr. Erdogan, to continue to govern Turkey under the state of emergency that he imposed in July of last year, when there was a failed coup d’état. If he gets the powers he seeks, the state of emergency will probably last forever.
The coup itself was a feeble one, but Mr. Erdogan has used it to justify an all-out attack on his real and imagined enemies.
Tens of thousands of officials, school teachers, newspaper editors, university administrators and other government employees have lost their jobs, or have actually been jailed. Many of them have, on very tenuous grounds, been associated with followers of Fethullah Gulen, a former Erdogan ally who broke with him in 2013 and lives in exile in the United States.
Under the state of emergency, many Turkish newspaper have closed, or been closed by Mr. Erdogan. The president has also systematically eliminated all the loudest voices pushing for the No side, sending at least one of them to prison on trumped-up terrorism charges.
In short, it is next to impossible in Turkey to debate a monumental constitutional change that will undo decades of democratic progress in the country.
But if you happen to be entitled to vote in the Turkish referendum, say “No.” Whatever you do, don’t fall for Mr. Erdogan’s lies that he needs sultan-like powers to bring stability to a country that is on the front lines of so much of the trouble in the Middle East.
Remember that Mr. Erdogan was in favour of a “strong” executive presidency long before last summer’s attempted coup, and before he rose to his current heights of arrogance. This is not about protecting Turkey from internal or external threats. This is only about giving one man the totalitarian power he craves.Report Typo/Error
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