Mixed Responses as Turkey Votes “Yes” on Constitutional Referendum

by Jerika L.H, reporting from Europe

Although official numbers will not be in for ten days, initial ballot counters have confirmed that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has emerged victorious in a hairline 51% win which will grant him new executive powers. The “Yes” vote will commence a shift away from the Parliamentary system towards a Presidential Republic.

Erdogan campaigned hard both domestically and abroad for the “Yes” vote, specifically asking for support from Turkish communities living in Germany and the Netherlands- two countries which banned Turkish officials from giving pro-Erdogan tours.

The Turkish President promised the new changes would streamline operations and hasten policy implementation by circumventing Parliament, an entity which Erdogan has regarded as a hindrance to Turkish progress. The outcome of the referendum will be a turning point for Turkey, as many of Erdogan’s political plans will render the country ineligible for membership in the European Union.

Among these being Erdogan’s promise to restore the death penalty- a move that would further tensions between Turkey and Europe.

Many within Erdogan’s opposition worry that the decision will give him untrammeled power which could morph into a dictatorship. The “Yes” vote will enact several constitutional amendments which would allow Erdogan to personally appoint the vice President, government administrators, statesmen, and ministers, as well as hand pick half of the country’s highest judicial officials. He will now be able to declare states of emergency, enact executive orders, and issue official decrees.

Turkey is currently embroiled in political turmoil on multiple fronts. The country is enmeshed in a revived war against Kurdish militants while being simultaneously targeted by Isis, all while navigating their role in the nearby Syrian conflict. Turkey is still in a tailspin over the failed government coup in 2016, which led to Erdogan’s highly critiqued move to arrest and suspend of over 140,000 insurgent sympathizers- many of whom were public servants.

Shortly after the referendum results were released, supporters of the “Yes” vote took to the streets to celebrate the outcome. Erdogan’s supporters have hailed him as a populist leader who has fought against secular elites for the interest of working class and middle class Turks, reviving a sense of religious pride through his moderately Islamist government against the country’s previously Western-leaning trend. He is regarded by some as the catalyst for recent economic prosperity, as he is said to be behind a number of infrastructural projects which developed roads, and built schools and hospitals in impoverished rural areas. However, despite his unofficial title as Turkey’s working class hero, the demographics of the referendum vote show a polemic divide between urban and rural. The “Yes” vote came primarily from conservative, religious Turks living in provincial areas, while Istanbul and other civic centers were shown to be staunchly against the referendum.

Those who oppose the President’s authority have called the vote outcome another move towards total authoritarianism, citing Erdogan’s campaign of media intimidation, internet censorship, and the 2014 electoral fraud as points of concern. In Turkey, insults against the President are punishable by a jail sentence. A 2016 Bloomberg News report confirmed that “more than 2,000 [criminal] cases have been opened against journalists, cartoonists, teachers, a former Miss Turkey, and even schoolchildren in the past two years.” Erdogan’s crackdown on academic critique of his leadership has raised fears for the future, as many claim the new referendum will only intensify the vilification and persecution of his opposers, who will be unable to freely express dissent without fear of retaliation.

All in all, the marginal win has showcased just how polemic politics have become, as Turkey now stands internally divided. It remains to be seen how Erdogan’s win will affect the stability of the country, teetering on the brink of rupture.



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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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34 thoughts on “Mixed Responses as Turkey Votes “Yes” on Constitutional Referendum”

  1. Tia Will

    Thanks Jerika.

    Having been married to a Turk and still having family in Turkey, I have maintained an interest in events there. Given that my relatives are all located in large cities, and are all either prominent in business or academics, I worry specifically about the suppression of free speech. Much of what we are seeing from the Erdogan administration is the same kind of tactics seen in our country, just more extreme. Erdogan started out as much more of a centrist and was certainly not locking up his opposition based on unflattering words when he first came to power. Now he has progressed to locking up journalists and academics whose views do not match his own and has made it a crime to criticize him. I am very wary of politicians who first introduce inflammatory rhetoric, and then move to making criminal accusations against their opponents, and then jail their opponents. There is a name for these behaviors. It is dictatorship, not democracy.

    1. Keith O

      I agree with Tia Will, yes we’re seeing free speech being shut down in our country and I wish the leftist agitators on our campuses would stop their fascist activities.

      1. David Greenwald Post author

        Because left agitators on campus are the biggest area of concern – and while I agree with you on this issue – you’re continued harping on it is disproportionate to the actual threat.

        1. Keith O

          It just strikes me as funny that people coming from the left side of the political spectrum are complaining about free speech being shut down in this country when the only examples of this actually happening are being perpetrated by their side.

          So maybe it’s those on the left who should stop “harping”?

          1. Don Shor

            Given that groups on the fringes (anarchist and “far-right”) are rallying their supporters to attend these events, and are promoting violence, I think the campus is making a valid point about their inability to provide a safe environment. This has nothing to do with the hundreds of peaceful protesters who turn out.

        2. Keith O

          Please Don Shor, share with us how many left leaning activist speakers have been shut down lately and denied their free speech rights on college campuses?

          So since actual or the threat of violence is only being directed at conservative speakers that are invited to our nation’s campuses they will never be allowed to speak in order to keep a safe environment?

          1. Don Shor

            Read the accounts of what is happening on the ground. These are groups organizing to come and be violent. It isn’t going to end well.

        3. Keith O

          Maybe since campuses are shutting down conservative speech because of overzealous leftist tactics they should ban all invited speakers in the name of fairness.  Do you think the leftist activist fascists would stand for that?

          1. Don Shor

            “leftist activist fascists”

            Fascism /ˈfæʃɪzəm/ is a form of radical authoritarian nationalism[1][2] that came to prominence in early 20th-century Europe. The first fascist movements emerged in Italy during World War I, before it spread to other European countries. Opposed to liberalism, Marxism, and anarchism, fascism is usually placed on the far-right within the traditional left–right spectrum.[3][4]

        4. Keith O

          That’s one defintion of fascism, I was using it in this context:

           America is facing a new fascism that does not tolerate any views it doesn’t like — where “wrong” speech is being hounded, demonized and shouted down.

          http://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/world/2014/April/Free-Speech-Farce-Rise-of-American-Fascism

          Anti-Fascists use fascism to Shut Down Free Speech at UC Berkeley

          https://themidmerican.com/2017/02/04/anti-fascists-use-fascism-to-shut-down-free-speech-at-uc-berkeley/

          1. Don Shor

            Yes. Sites like CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network) and this “Mid’merican” fellow you cite do, in fact, also use the term “fascist” inaccurately. No big surprise there.
            You sure do hang out with an interesting crowd, Keith.
            http://davismerchants.org/vanguard/midmerican.jpg

        5. Keith O

          Don Shor, the use of the word fascism has evolved over the years.  An example:

          Last year, we watched political correctness on campus jump with abandon into its perfected state of fascism.

          Washington TimesApr 18, 2017 
          Here’s another definition:

          (in general use) extreme authoritarian, oppressive, or intolerant views or practices.

          I think one could easily apply this definition to the leftist college agitators who are shutting down free speech.  Are they not being authoritarian and oppressive and intolerant of other’s views? Are they not acting like fascists?

          Hmmmm, I think I will continue to use the term fascists when referring to the student agitators who continue to shut down conservative free speech whether you like it or not.

  2. Howard P

    You’re absolutely on the right track, Keith… see how Bill O’Reilly is being persecuted by the left… fortunately, the “righties” can help make him whole with 10’s of millions of dollars in severance pay to show the remorse they have for caving in to the “lefties”… and the lefties will probably protest if he shows up on campuses to explain how “right”-eous he was.

    Being a leftie philanderer is 100 X worse than being simply falsely accused (all those women and their corroborators were part of a leftie plot)… or could it be Bill was/is a TURKEY.  Will be interesting if Fox News actually does a ‘regime change’, or whether the current regime/culture will stay in ‘power’… maybe even getting additional ‘power’… [trying to feign being “on topic”]

  3. Howard P

    You’re absolutely on the right track, Keith… see how Bill O’Reilly is being persecuted by the left… fortunately, the “righties” can help make him whole with 10’s of millions of dollars in severance pay to show the remorse they have for caving in to the “lefties”… and the lefties will probably protest if he shows up on campuses to explain how “right”-eous he was.

    Being a leftie philanderer (Democrat/leftie) is 100 X worse than being simply falsely accused of sexual harrassment (all those women and their corroborators were part of a leftie plot)… or could it be Bill(?s) was/is a TURKEY.  Will be interesting if Fox News actually does a ‘regime change’, or whether the current regime/culture will stay in ‘power’… maybe even getting additional ‘power’… [trying to feign being “on topic”]

    1. Keith O

      Coulter said the university insisted that her speech take place in the middle of the day, that only students could attend and that the exact venue wouldn’t be announced until the last minute. She said that she agreed with the conditions but that apparently wasn’t good enough.

      These were the univerity’s demands before they decided to cancel Coulter’s speech the first time.  Are liberal speakers also subject to the same demands?

      I wonder what all the demands and conditions are in place now so she’s allowed to speak?

    2. Keith O

      It looks like it’s not going to take place after all.

      But on Thursday, the university said it had found a venue where it could hold the speech on May 2, instead of the original April 27 date. However, a leader of the college Republican group that originally invited Coulter said the university was placing strict conditions on the event, and he said his group intended to reject the new terms.

      So are they making the terms so onerous that they decide to cancel anyway?

      If that’s the case all speakers should be subject to the same terms.

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2017/04/19/berkeley-cancels-ann-coulter-speech-over-fears-of-more-violent-protests/?utm_term=.00026ac9079c

    3. Keith O

      It looks like UC Berkeley is caught between a rock and a hard place, that being trying to look like they’re open to free speech and student agitator fascists who want to squash it.

      Hours later, Coulter shot down the invitation in a series of tweets and said she will speak at Berkeley on Thursday as planned not only because she “can’t do May 2,” but “THERE ARE NO CLASSES AT BERKELEY THE WEEK OF MAY 2!!!”
      That week is “Dead Week,” a time when classes are suspended so students can study for exams.
      “It’s at an awful time,” said Naweed Tahmas, 20, of the Berkeley College Republicans student group that invited Coulter. Also, the last day of instruction is three days later.

      http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/ann-coulter-rejects-cal-offer-to-switch-date-of-speech/ar-BBA5TRp

      1. Don Shor

        A pro-Donald Trump march in Berkeley on March 4 resulted in seven injuries and ten arrests after confrontations with counter-protesters. Police confiscated several potentially deadly items from attendees of the rally including baseball bats, bricks, metal pipes, 2x4s and a dagger.[11]

        Some attending were identified as members of the Proud Boys, but prior to the event, Proud Boys leader Gavin McInnes disavowed any link to the march, tweeting: “#ProudBoys never agreed to be part of this march. I’m out”.[12][13]

        April 15
        On April 15, several groups, including approximately 50 Oath Keepers, held a pro-Trump rally and were met by counter-protesters.[14] Planned speakers included Brittany Pettibone, Lauren Southern, Tim Treadstone, and others associated with the far-right and white nationalism.[15][16] The event was organized as a free-speech rally by the same person which organized the March 4 Trump event.[17][18]

        At Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park a “large number of fights” broke out smoke bombs and fireworks were thrown into the melee, and pepper spray was used in the crowd.[19][20] “Both groups threw rocks and sticks at each other and used a large trash bin as a battering ram as the crowd moved around the perimeter of the park.”[19] Eleven people were injured, six of whom were hospitalized, including one person who was stabbed.[19] Police “seized a handful of cans of peppers spray, some knives, and dozens of sign and flag poles, skateboards, and other blunt objects” from members of the crowd.[20]

        A Reuters reporter estimated that at least 500 and 1,000 people were in the park at the peak of the rally.[21] Various far-right activists in the crowd held up antisemitic signs, including “Da Goyim Know,”[22][23] and some made Nazi salutes.[16][20]

        During the event, Nathan Damigo—a 30-year-old Cal State Stanislaus student and the founder of the white supremacist group Identity Evropa—punched a 20-year-old woman in the face, then ran off into the crowd. The attack was captured on video and prompted calls for Damigo’s arrest or expulsion.[24] Cal State Stanislaus stated that that they would investigate Damigo.[25]

        These things are escalating. These fascist groups and the anti-fascist Antifa are organizing on social media and each event is more violent.
        The university has a legitimate and proven concern about safety at these events.

        1. Keith O

          So because of student agitator fascists whose goal as we’re experiencing is to shut down conservative speech on campuses across our nation conservatives must either be denied access or delegated to a back room on days campuses are closed in order to exercise their free speech?  Are you okay with that?

          1. Don Shor

            The university has a legitimate concern about the safety at these events due to violence promoted and organized on social media by far-left and far-right groups. If you can think of a way they can allow the speeches to go forward that protects the students from these outside groups coming in and starting fights and near-riots, do please let us know what that method is. I suggest you find and read some of the descriptions of what is happening on the ground at these events.
            I do not believe that “student agitator fascists” accurately describes in any way the individuals and groups that are causing the violence.

          2. David Greenwald Post author

            I also think you are mischaracterizing them as “student” agitators.

        2. Keith O

          Well so far all we’ve seen on campuses is left wing fascist groups shutting down conservative speakers.  So if conservatives are to be shut out or delegated to backrooms on school off days the fascists are still obtaining their goal, which is shutting down conservative speakers.

          1. Don Shor

            What we’re seeing is brawls between Proud Boys, Oath Keepers etc., and Antifa, with people bringing weapons and incendiaries. Are you aware of all this?

        3. Keith O

          That’s not what we saw at UC Davis when Milo was shut down, there was no evidence of any violence coming from the right.

          That’s not what we saw at UC Berkeley when Milo shut down, that was Antifa, not violence coming from the right.

          And how about the many other speakers who have been shut down on campuses across the nation?  Recently students formed a blockade to stop Heather Mac Donald from speaking at Claremont College.  Ben Shapiro has been denied several appearances.  This is just the tip of the iceberg.

          Around the country, colleges have found a new excuse for shutting down free speech: safety.
          Just as “national security” has periodically served as a pretext for robbing Americans of civil liberties, so too has “campus security” newly become a convenient rationale for discarding commitments to free speech. Unwilling to either defend controversial speech or cop to censoring it, college administrators are instead increasingly invoking public “safety” when they cancel events.
          Ben Shapiro, a young conservative firebrand who has criticized Black Lives Matter, has recently been disinvited from two college campuses due to “security” concerns. In February, his scheduled talk at California State University at Los Angeles was canceled — or rather, indefinitely delayed — so that administrators could “arrange for him to appear as part of a group of speakers with differing viewpoints on diversity.”

          http://hotair.com/archives/2016/09/20/using-security-reason-shut-free-speech-campus/

        4. Keith O

          I think you two trying to point at conservative groups being a cause of why conservative speakers are being shut down on campuses is just deflection and another weak excuse currently being used to shut down conservative free speech.  In my opinion it’s also safe to assume that if the tables were turned and it was liberal speakers being shut down on campuses that you both would be crying bloody murder.

          1. Don Shor

            I think you two trying to point at conservative groups being a cause of why conservative speakers are being shut down on campuses is just deflection

            I haven’t done that. Please don’t misrepresent what I have said. I have said that it is “violence promoted and organized on social media by far-left and far-right groups” and “brawls between Proud Boys, Oath Keepers etc., and Antifa….”

            it’s also safe to assume that if the tables were turned and it was liberal speakers being shut down on campuses that you both would be crying bloody murder.

            This is a ridiculously tedious argument you make all the time, the supposed situational hypocrisy of what I might say or think in the reverse situation.
            There is a safety issue. That needs to be addressed. The university has to balance a safe environment with the right to free speech. They can’t prevent a speaker, but they do have a legitimate concern about the venue and their ability to control crowds and violence. I again urge you to read accounts of what is going on at these events, written by eyewitnesses. People are already getting beat up, and someone is going to get seriously hurt or killed.

        5. Keith O

          So if only conservative speaking engagements were being allowed and liberal speaking engagements were being cancelled do to security issues mostly being perpetrated by the right you and David would be understanding and okay with that?

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