Erdogan got what he wanted. His narrow victory in the referendum held this Sunday will dramatically transform the Turkish constitution, greatly enhancing the powers Recep Tayyip Erdoğan enjoys and consequently allowing him to become an omnipotent president. This will simultaneously wipe out Turkey’s current system of parliamentary democracy and limit the capacity of the opposition. We are, thus, on the verge of an unprecedented democratic regression in a country that has hitherto been a symbol of coexistence between Islam, secularism and democracy.
Relations with the European Union are also becoming increasingly strained. Erdoğan clashed with EU countries such as the Netherlands, which banned Turkish ministers entering the country to hold rallies before the vast Turkish diaspora during the referendum campaign, and unwittingly ended up boosting support for the president. The spat, which involved Erdogan comparing parts of European politics to Nazism, has deeply soured the relationship with Brussels, which avoided congratulating Erdoğan on the victory, preferring to highlight concerns in voting irregularities and warning that Turkey’s application to the European Union is at stake.
Yet, with a slim margin of 51.3% of voters voting „yes“ for constitutional reform as proposed by the leader of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), the victory has been too tight to allow Erdoğan an unhindered path to complete, centralised power. The Turkish opposition has already called for the referendum to be annulled, with the main opposition party, Social Democrats CHP denouncing „wide irregularities“ in the vote.
Undoubtedly, the result of the referendum shows that Turkey is a sharply divided nation. Worryingly for Erdoğan is the fact that „no“ has won in the main cities: Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir. This evidently strong and stark polarisation in Turkey, unfortunately, foresees an unstable future in an already very divided country, with a precarious economy and recently hit by a spate of terrorist attacks.