A narrow majority of the Turkish voters have approved the constitutional referendum held yesterday. Unofficial results indicate a victory of 51.4% for the yes-camp after a campaign characterized by random arrests, intimidation, and a media blackout for anyone opposing the constitutional changes that will give Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan far-reaching powers.
Whereas the population in the major cities of Izmir, Istanbul, and Ankara, as well as the coastal areas and the Kurdish provinces in the south-east all voted against the expansion of Erdoğan’s powers, AKP’s voter base in religious rural areas and the middle class managed to tip the scales.
The constitutional changes will abolish the parliamentary system and install an executive presidency and presidential system. The President will have the power to appoint and dismiss ministers and the Vice President. The President will also appoint 12 of the 15 judges on the Constitutional Court, with 3 proposed by Parliament.
President Erdoğan will thus have nearly total control over the legislative and judiciary powers, creating a de facto autocracy.
Although responses from foreign leader so far have been muted, it is expected that the EU will be negative. EU Rapporteur for Turkey, Kati Piri, stated on her website that accession talks with Turkey should be suspended:
This is a sad day for all democrats in Turkey. It is clear that the country cannot join the EU with a constitution that doesn’t respect the separation of powers and has no checks and balances. If the package is implemented unchanged, this will have to lead to the formal suspension of the EU accession talks.