A Vote Sunday Could Dramatically Change Turkey

President is seeking to expand his powers
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 14, 2017 1:45 PM CDT
What's at Stake in Turkey's Referendum
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses supporters during a referendum meeting in Istanbul on Wednesday.   (Kayhan Ozer/Presidential Press Service, Pool Photo via AP)

Voters in Turkey go to the polls Sunday, but this is no ordinary election. Technically, it's about whether to shift from a parliamentary to a presidential system, reports CNBC. But the bigger issue is that it would result in sweeping new powers for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Supporters say that's necessary to stabilize a nation in crisis, but critics fear what they say would be one-man rule devoid of checks on his power. More on what it means:

  • The Wall Street Journal lists some of the powers Erdogan would get, including the ability to appoint vice presidents and Cabinet ministers without parliament's approval, and the authority to dissolve parliament on any grounds and issue decrees. He'd also appoint most top judges, and the prime minister's post would disappear.
  • The changes would mean that Erdogan could theoretically remain president through 2029, reports US News & World Report.
  • The vote is expected to be close. Reuters estimates the "yes" camp has a slight edge at 51%.
  • USA Today sees "major ripple effects" of a yes vote for Europe, the Middle East, NATO, and the US. It notes that the US has a strategic military base in Turkey.

  • The Nationalist Movement Party is on the "yes" side. TRT World lists its arguments in favor of a presidential republic, including that it’s more in keeping with Turkish tradition and will benefit national security.
  • But the Economist argues that a new constitution could push Turkey "into Russia's arms" while making Erdogan "an elected dictator." Given that Erdogan has shown "how cruelly power can be abused" since a failed coup, that does not bode well, the piece states.
  • "Economist, mind your own business," responds Fahrettin Altun at Daily Sabah. He argues that the Economist and Western media in general are trying "to interfere in Turkey's politics" to resurrect an ideal of a "dream-like 'liberal Europe.'"
  • The New York Times explores the question of whether Erdogan is using a refugee crisis and struggling economy "to shroud a power grab that would sound the death knell for Turkish democracy." Whatever the result, the short-term implications won't be huge because Erdogan is already acting with increased authority amid the chaos. What it means for the longer term is a different story.
  • Yusef Kanli argues the referendum won't solve Turkey’s problems, no matter the outcome. "A campaign might be over but the war still not," he writes at the Hurriyet Daily News.
(More Turkey stories.)

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