Turkey held a constitutional referendum vote on April 16 of this year. The public voted its approval of 18 new amendments to the Turkish constitution. These amendments covered everything from adding the word “impartial” to a clause in the constitution about the nation’s courts, to lowering the age at which a citizen of Turkey can be deputized, and increasing the size of the national assembly by 50 members. However, of main concern to myself and many others watching Turkey on the world stage were the amendments that remove the position of prime minister and give the president increasingly wide power to call for a state of emergency, ultimately giving President Erdogan overarching power to appoint and remove members of government.
The passage of the new amendments (by a mere 51 percent) means the greater consolidation of power in Turkey under the rule of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party. The vote was not only close, but extremely controversial; there has been great controversy over possible suppression of votes by the Turkish government, including breaking up public student rallies for the “no” vote, and jailing opposition members intermittently. Similarly, Erdogan’s party and rule have brought the imprisonment of over 120 journalists since last July’s attempted coup. Almost 40,000 teachers have been removed from their jobs since the very same incident, and 8,000 army officers, 8,000 police officers, and 4,000 judges have been ousted from their posts. This has all been done under a continuing state of emergency that has lasted far longer than the six months described in the constitution. All of these are simply symptoms of a political disease, a malady best described as the surge toward the system of authoritarianism at an alarming rate.
It is clear that the current dynamic between Turkey and its western allies must change. Turkey has taken a turn for the worse, decidedly moving towards the path of dictatorial neighbors in the region such as Syria. If not for human rights, Turkey’s new path of governance threatens the stability of the Middle East and the stability of the alliances to which it is beholden. We, as a public, must stand against the Trump presidency’s embrace of the Turkish regime. In embracing authoritarian regimes, we no longer embrace keeping the world safe for democracy. We must stand for world democracy and reject Turkey’s path away from it.