Is Sunday the End of the Road for Turkey as a Secular Country?

by Mark Angelides

Turkey has long been a shining (only) example of how a Muslim majority country can exist as a progressive society with freedoms, rights and a secular rule of law. But slowly, as power has become more centralized in the hands of President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an, the liberty and secularism that made Turkey so unique has been eroded. The culmination of this is coming on Sunday as Turks go to the polls to vote on a referendum to change the very system of government from a Parliamentary Democracy, to a bastardized Presidential Dictatorship.
Erdo?an has been campaigning not only for the votes at home, but also among the Turkish Diaspora abroad (as seen in the mass protests in Holland and Germany a few weeks ago). But few people have taken the time to look at exactly what is being voted on and the ramifications. Here’s a breakdown of the key aspects:

  • The aim is to change from a Parliamentary to a Presidential system.
  • It is being done as a referendum because Parliament refused the constitutional changes (less than two thirds of the vote).
  • There are a total of 18 Amendments in the bill.
  • If he wins this referendum, he could stand for President for ANOTHER two terms and reclaim his place as party leader.

The main points relate to the Executive and Legislative branches. Here are the main points (with thanks to the Guardian):

  • The abolition of the post of prime minister. The president will appoint the cabinet and will have a number of vice-presidents. Parliament will no longer oversee the ministers as their power to initiate a motion of no confidence will be removed.
  • The president will no longer have to be neutral, but will be able to maintain an affiliation to his political party. Currently the president has to sever ties with his party once he is elected.
  • The number of members of parliament will be increased from 550 to 600 and their minimum age lowered to 18.
  • It will be possible for the president to be impeached by parliament. At the moment he could only be prosecuted by the legislature if he committed treason.
  • The abolition of military courts.
  • The president will be able to appoint four out of 13 judges to the highest judicial board in the country.

Make no mistake, Erdo?an gets much of his support because he IS and Islamist. When this power becomes his, Turkey will once again become an Islam run state; and possibly ISIS’ biggest ally.