On April 17, 2017, the Bipartisan Policy Center set a panel to discuss the results and repercussions of the Turkish Referendum from April 16 which gave President Erdogan a greater amount of power.

Panelists: Eric Brown (Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute) Aykan Erdemir (Senior Fellow, Foundation for Defense of Democracy) Ragip Soylu (columnist, Daily Sabah) Gonul Tol (Founding Director, Center for Turkish Studies, Middle East Institute)

Eric Brown amplifies that the vote determined the future direction Turkey is heading it. The question he poses is whether the vision of the country’s founder will remain or whether it will be transformed? Currently, the panelists state that the current vision for Turkey for 2023 will be one injected with religious elements that will eventually change the populous identity.

Gonul Tol emphasizes that Turkeys direction is important for the US in regards to having a democratic ally in the region. The panelists believe that Turkey is drifting away from democracy and therefore the West perhaps towards Russia and the Middle East. There is a lot of opposition in Turkey, but the speakers are not confident that democracy will prevail. A lot of instability is expected. People who believed in Erdogan in the primary years they are worried that his vision has changed, and people are discouraged and trying to move out.

The content of the proposed amendment

Aykan Erdemir states that Erdogan wants a centralized presidential power and he wants to make changes to the constitution that will enable him to have more power. Because Turkey is under emergency law, after the attempted coup – the Turkish presidency is seen as symbolic. It is considered that he is the commander in chief which goes against the basic ideas of the Turkish government in which the president is not meant to have any political affiliation, such as the Queen of England. Although Erdogan formally left his political party, he has maintained de facto control. Under the new amendment, the prime ministry would be abolished, and the executive branch would be the president. Apart from the Republic of Cyprus, Turkey would be the only state to have this type of government structure. The president would be able to make any appointment he wants without a parliamentary decision. One aspect of this amendment that most increases his power is in the realm of the judiciary because Erdogan can now appoint 12 out of the 15 members of the constitutional court, the other three would be elected by parliament which is expected to be controlled by Erdogan. There is one key body that appoints the judges and prosecutors throughout the system; he would now appoint 6/13 members with no review. The president will now maintain a party affiliation, and he would now be able to issue detreats. Parliament is allowed to overrule his decrees, but in most areas of Turkish life, in the absence of parliamentary legislation, he could make law by fiat. There will be a lack of balances, the rule of law. Turkey is very likely to have a one-man rule if this decree passes. The results of the referendum are seen as a step back for a country that is democratic.

The complexity of the referendum is that Erdogan can join his party and take control of it immediately. The rest of the system will not go into effect until November 2019, when the prime ministry will be abolished, and the new regime will be implemented. The Rouge is that the elections are held on the same day, so it is unlikely that somebody would split their opinion. The amendment says that the President can serve 2 – 5-year terms, although under certain circumstances the president could serve a 3rd term under five years. Under the current situation, the President has been avoiding some supreme court justices and has shrunk the system in general.

Synthesis by: Patricia Besciu – all opinions are those of panelists

For more information visit: https://bipartisanpolicy.org/events/turkey-after-the-referendum-stability-or-turmoil/