What Does Turkey’s “Yes” Vote Mean for Democracy

Turkey Voted Yes
By Firat Demir
For Syria Comment
Sept 13, 2010

Here is a map of the referendum voting. Blue is YES. The voting pattern of the referendum was very close to that of the 2009 elections. The Mediterranean coastal region voted No (though with a very close margin), but the major cities, Istanbul and Ankara, and the rest of the country voted Yes.”

Turkey voted “Yes” to more democracy, more human rights, and a more civilian administration, free from the frequent interventions of the once all powerful military. We should now see an accelerated trend toward real and honest democracy in Turkey.

A new constitution, the first one to be ever written by civilians, not dictators is the first thing to be expected after this day. The Yes vote is also a response to the military coup of September 12, 1980 that marks one of Turkey’s darkest days.

Despite the fear mongering with the images of Iran after Humayni, Turkish voters decided that they want the army to return to its barracks and not deployed on Turkey’s streets. They want generals and judges off the front pages of the newspapers, where they have been so prominent for a century. Officers and judges have viewed themselves as the guardians of the state rather than of law.

The Kurds, who have been most discriminated against by this oppressive alliance of the military and judiciary, not surprisingly voted ‘Yes,” despite demands by their own leaders that they boycott the election. In Diyarbakir, the participation rate was around 35% (which shows that the boycott was effective and AKP party will have to reconcile with the Kurdish representatives in the parliament) but 94% of those that voted, voted Yes. In 17 Kurdish cities, the average participation rate was 55%, ranging from a low of 7% in Hakkari to a high of 78% in Bingol, reflecting the confusion among the Kurdish voters. Nevertheless, more than 95% of those who went to the ballot box, despite the boycott decision by the PKK and pro-Kurdish party DTP, voted Yes.

Key issues in the constitutional changes

Some key issues in a package of 26 reforms to the constitution that were included in the referendum voted on in Sunday’s referendum were:

Military:

  • The changes give officers who are dismissed by the military the right to appeal their dismissal.
  • It redefines the jurisdiction of military courts and empowers civilian courts to try military personnel for crimes against state security or against the constitutional order — such as coup attempts.
  • It opens the way for the prosecution of Turkey’s 1980 military coup leaders.

Equality:

  • It strengthens gender equality and bars discrimination against children, the elderly, the disabled and veterans.

Privacy:

  • It recognizes the right to protection of personal information and limits government access to personal records.

Freedoms:

  • It restricts travel bans imposed on individuals.

Labor:

  • It allows membership in more than one union in a workplace
  • It recognizes the right to collective bargaining for civil servants and other state employees
  • It removes bans on politically motivated strikes

Parliament

  • It ensures that elected officials can remain in Parliament if their political party is disbanded by a court decision.

Constitutional Court:

  • It increases the number of judges on the Constitutional Court from 11 to 17
  • It gives power to Parliament to appoint some of them.
  • It recognizes the right of individual appeals to the court.

Judiciary:

  • It increases the number of members of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), which oversees the appointments of judges and prosecutors in the country, from 7 to 22.
  • It opens the way for appeals of decisions to remove them from the profession.

Turkey votes for new constitution in tussle for country’s future
By Patrick Cockburn Monday, 13 September 2010

The Turkish government secured victory yesterday in a vote to amend the constitution drawn up by the country’s military to protect their power after a coup in 1980. Yesterday’s vote, in which 58 percent of voters backed the changes – was held on the 30th anniversary of the 1980 coup, when as many as 600,000 Turks were arrested and at least 450 people died under torture; many others disappeared. The military of the day drew up a constitution that severely limited democracy and entrenched the power of the armed forces and a judiciary sympathetic to military control.

The changing of the constitution will make possible to try officers in civilian courts, stop the judiciary banning political parties (the ruling party was almost banned in 2008), and allowing the President and parliament to have a say in the composition of the powerful constitutional court.

The changing of the constitution will make possible to try officers in civilian courts, stop the judiciary banning political parties (the ruling party was almost banned in 2008), and allowing the President and parliament to have a say in the composition of the powerful constitutional court.

It was also seen as a key indicator of who would win parliamentary elections due before July next year between the ruling and mildly Islamic AK party and the opposition Republican party (CHP) which claims to be the defender of Turkish secularism.

Since coming to power in 2002, the AK, led by Mr Erdogan, has been cutting back the power of the army and is being accused by the CHP of covertly undermining secularism.

The CHP is a revived political force under its new leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu and campaigned vigorously in defence of the Turkish version of secularism. The struggle between supporters of the old secular but authoritarian elite, who have held power since 1923, and the AK government is likely to continue despite the government’s narrow victory.

The army’s grip on power has been weakened by a series of confrontations with Mr Erdogan over the past eight years in which it has come off worst. The military has not intervened in the referendum.

Who is afraid of Europeanization?
Ihsan Dagi September 6, 2010

The Kemalists, who stood naked in their authoritarian and anti-Western disposition, have waged a war against Turkey’s Europeanization and democratization through their representatives in politics, business and bureaucracy. This is the background to the Kemalists’ opposition to constitutional change. They do not accept the principle that people have the right to choose who will represent them.

Turkey poised for major shakeup as voters back constitutional reforms
Robert Tait in Istanbul Sunday 12 September 2010, Guardian

PM celebrates unexpectedly easy win in referendum on amendments opposed by all opposition parties Referendum delivers clear support for Turkish PM’s plans to curtail judiciary and make armed forces subservient to civilian rule Link to this video Turkey stood on the brink of a ground-breaking political transformation tonight after voters in a referendum backed a constitutional shakeup designed to tame its once mighty secular establishment.

With more than 99% of votes counted, returns showed 58% backing for amendments that would drastically curtail the judiciary and make the armed forces subservient to civilian rule. The result confounded earlier forecasts of a tight race and represented a stunning political triumph for Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and his ruling Justice and Development party (AKP), which is rooted in political Islam.

The government had called the vote to decide on a 26-article reform package that it said would give Turkey a democratic constitution fit for EU membership and mark a break with the country’s baleful legacy of military coups.

The European commission, which had criticised the government for stifling public debate, welcomed the results. “These reforms are a step in the right direction as they address a number of longstanding priorities in Turkey’s efforts towards fully complying with the accession criteria,” the commissioner for enlargement, Stefan Fule, said in a statement.

The vote took place on the 30th anniversary of a 1980 putsch that ushered in a military government that introduced the current constitution.

Turkey stood on the brink of a ground-breaking political transformation tonight after voters in a referendum backed a constitutional shakeup designed to tame its once mighty secular establishment. With more than 99% of votes counted, returns showed 58% backing for amendments that would drastically curtail the judiciary and make the armed forces subservient to civilian rule.

Erdogan Like Ataturk Roils Elite as Kiler Rises With AK’s Power
By Benjamin Harvey and Mark Bentley (Bloomberg), 2010-09-13

The Istanbul Stock Exchange 100 index rose 2.7 percent yesterday to a record, helped by the referendum results.

Erdogan, 56, has plenty to brag about in the Turkish economy. “A Turkey that in 2002 was the 26th-largest economy in the world is now the 17th,” he said in a speech in Ankara on June 29. “Turkey is being talked about as an example for the world. We’re being watched with envy.”

Under the AK Party, the government has tamed the inflation that plagued the country for decades. Since early 2004, consumer price increases have been no more than 13 percent. That’s a victory in Turkey, where the inflation rate touched 73 percent as recently as February 2002 and was even higher, on average, throughout the 1990s.

Strong Growth

While gross domestic product shrank in the first three quarters of 2009 because of the global financial crunch, Turkey has recovered strongly. In the first quarter of 2010, the economy grew at an 11.7 percent annual pace, though the International Monetary Fund predicts that growth will slow later this year. The average annual pace of growth in Turkey from 2004 to 2008 was 6.1 percent, more than triple the rate in the previous five years. Turkey’s exports were $102 billion last year, up from $36 billion in 2002, even as the economies of Turkey’s trading partners contracted.

Erdogan has pushed to make Islam more prominent since the AK Party swept to power by winning a majority of the seats in Turkey’s parliament in a 2002 vote and ending more than a decade of coalition governments. The prime minister has said Turks should drink fruit juice instead of alcohol and has proposed prison terms for adultery.

He has tried — and so far failed — to lift a ban on women wearing Islamic-style headscarves in universities. This prohibition is loaded with history and symbolism, having first been instituted by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the champion of
secular values who founded the Turkish Republic in 1923. Ataturk challenged the elite of his day with political and social changes that transformed the remnants of the Ottoman Empire into the modern state of Turkey.

Comments (2)


1. WHY said:

Congrats to Turkey, 3o2bal 3and Syria..

When do you guys expect this to happen in Syria? Anytime soon or maybe in 50 years?

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

September 14th, 2010, 10:56 pm

 

2. Shai said:

It’s about time the U.S. pushes for the Syrian track, even in parallel with the Palestinian one. In Israel, this will be a strong backwind that can, either on its own, or in parallel, help us achieve the final comprehensive solution we all seek.

http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/u-s-confirms-intense-efforts-to-restart-israel-syria-peace-efforts-1.314055

For too many years have governments and administrations “gambled” on the Palestine-first thesis. For Israelis, that’s the toughest one, and should therefore be the last hurdle to overcome, not the first. Seeing progress along the Syrian track will help Israelis come to terms with the notion of a 1967 border, and reignite hope that Peace is possible.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

September 16th, 2010, 3:46 am

 

Post a comment