15:03 GMT +319 April 2018
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    Brave New World

    What President Erdogan’s New Constitutional Powers Mean for Turkey and Turks

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    John Harrison
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    President Erdogan’s very narrow victory in the presidential referendum last week means that he will soon have the constitutional right to do what, up to now, he has done only by ‘diktat’: to purge any judges who deliver verdicts he disagrees with. What does this mean for Turks and the world?

    Simon Watmough, a postdoctoral research associate at the European University Institute in Italy shares his detailed knowledge of Turkey, its people, and politics.

    Simon describes what the 18 new amendments to the constitution will mean for Turkey, and traces back the history of authoritarianism in Turkey to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who founded modern Turkey. The connection between authoritarianism and Turkish culture is discussed, in particular, Turkey’s tradition of focussing more on charismatic leaders than on political platforms. Simon points out, however, that modern Turkey did manage to establish a tradition of democratic rule, with a strong party system, and sees the changes that are going to come from the new constitutional amendments as being unprecedented.

    Erdoǧan’s power base is identified as being in rural Turkey, and Simon describes the president as being a ‘Black Turk;’ a conservative, traditional, pious man. The possible connection between the attempted coup in July 2016 and the referendum; in that the coup possibly gave Erdoǧan the opportunity to consolidate his power base and pressurize the opposition during the state of emergency that came after the coup is discussed. The ‘No’ campaign was apparently given very little air time and the campaigns for the referendum were, according to Simon, played on a radically uneven playing field.

    Perhaps one of the most serious outcomes of the referendum is the encouragement of conservative religious elements within Turkish society at the expense of secularism. Simon, however, feels that perhaps what is happening now is more of a rebalancing than a radical movement to extreme Islam.

    Simon says that NATO will continue to back Turkey despite the country’s possible turn to towards authoritarianism because of the strategic geopolitical position of the country in regards to Syria, at least in the short term. Unpredictability is likely to continue as far as the country’s foreign policy is concerned, despite Erdoǧan’s increased powers.

    All of the President’s new powers will only come into force until after he wins an election in 2019. It is possible, but unlikely, that he may not win that election.

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    Turkish referendum, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey
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