Ecstatic must Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, have been on April 16, after claiming victory in a referendum that essentially enshrined his de facto dictatorship. What does this mean? In essence, it means Turkey has voted for its own oppression.
Erdogan—who, along with his AK party, rose to power in 2003—has belabored the significance of a failed military coup in the summer of 2016 as a pretext for stamping out the last vestiges of Turkish democracy and separation of powers. Indeed, since that time, Turkey has been in a “state of emergency,” which has conveniently conferred more power on Erdogan and catalyzed centralization. Since the failed coup, and perhaps even before, Turkey has been on a slow trot towards tyranny.
Erdogan saw the coup as an opportunity to whip up nationalist sentiments and paranoia. In doing so, he has been able to spuriously suppress his political opposition by deeming them “terrorists” and enemies of the State. In fact, approximately 140,000 Turks have been jailed to date, more than 169 media outlets silenced, and dozens of opposition-party parliamentarians arrested.
Evidently, policemen have been rounding up any person whom Erdogan considers opposed to his rule.
In addition to these police-state tactics that have, unfortunately, become routine in Turkey, Erdogan also reignited a civil war with the Kurds in July 2015. This was not mere coincidence, but rather the result of pure political calculation. By way of demagoguery and the unifying power of war, Erdogan was able to win his party more seats in the parliament, thereby further emboldening his political power. Moreover, most unfortunately, is the fact that all of this was prior to the April 16 vote.
Alas, nothing about the referendum’s passage bodes well for the citizens of Turkey or for the Western world. And while these amendments vary considerably in scope and effect, they all further centralize Erdogan’s power. Furthermore, they all but guarantee that Turkey, once a great beacon of democratic hope for the Western world after Mustafa Atatürk’s reforms, is to be yet one more country governed by an autocratic and tyrannical regime in the Islamic world.
April 16’s vote virtually gave Erdogan complete control over parliament and legislative functions. He is Dcinow authorized to handpick parliamentary candidates and faces no barriers to presidential appointments. He now wields complete control over the budget. His Cabinet is no longer required to respond to inquiries from parliament, except in writing. The authority to “check” the judiciary, in some instances, now lies solely within the President’s power. Finally, and perhaps most unsettling, the Prime Minister’s office, historically the most powerful political office in the country, is to be abolished in the near future. In short, whatever fetters, or appearance thereof, that remained on Mr. Erdogan’s authoritarian ambitions before April 16 have now been unlocked.
Unfortunately, the people of Turkey are not the only ones to be affected by this new despot.
In the time leading up to the referendum, Erdogan’s relations with the West had already been souring. He accused the Dutch and the Germans of “Nazi” practices when his aides were prevented from campaigning for a “Yes” vote on the referendum. Indeed, his dictatorial drift has disassociated Turkey further from the West and into ominous, strange consortiums with the likes of Russia.
Other alliances Erdogan will be empowered to make as a result of the referendum, as well as its implications for the future of Turkey itself, is, of course, not entirely predictable; but of all the great many consequences of Sunday’s vote, none bespeak of anything but dark days to come for the people of Turkey.
This vote, it seems to your Assistant Editor, is a perfect example of why the notion that “all people yearn for freedom,” to which many subscribe, is, sadly, specious. The desire to be free is not universal, and it is certainly not natural. On the contrary, in many ways, the desire for freedom is contra naturam. Consequently, substantial freedom is rare and precious, and it necessitates great effort to maintain.
Unfortunately, however, the majority of Turks have decided that they are willing to put their faith in a leader rather than in liberty. And the record of history is quite clear in this regard: when democracies fall, ambitious authoritarians or totalitarians fill the vacuum. Enter Erdogan.
— Ross Dubberly is Assistant Editor at THE ARCH CONSERVATIVE and Co-Chairman of the Young Americans for Freedom at UGA.