A Turkish Democracy with a sour K’nafah taste

A Turkish Democracy with a sour K’nafah taste
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A Turkish Democracy with a sour K’nafah taste

What does the outcome of the vote mean for the future of new Turkey’s political Second Republic?

By Abdennour Toumi

Abdennour Toumi

Sunday the Turks voted on a referendum proposing eighteen amendments to Turkey’s 1982 constitution. These amendments have passed and given birth to Turkey’s Second Republic, granting President Erdoğan sweeping powers in a checked and balanced power paradigm, according to the result of the referendum’s 51.30% in favor. 

Turkey’s new constitution pushes for a strong presidential system that could empower the role of a charismatic president, and not necessarily undermine the democratic process and the economic progress that Turks have been enjoying since 2002 under the AKParti ruling.

This referendum was not simply ballots of “yes or no” for the Turks, but it was clearly a referendum on President Erdoğan’s popularity and leadership that survived a failed coup last summer. This happened with the help of the Turkish people, the political parties and the elite who said “no” to the coup and virtually ended the military political role in the country.

So the “yes” on the new constitutional amendments was a “yes” for President Erdoğan even with a slight and sour victory for him and his followers.

Analysts will begin speculating for some and arguing for others because of the polarization of Turkish politics. One could add the society, notably in the wake of the April 16th referendum results from the 81 departments. It’s clear that each department voted according to its ethnic, sectarian and ideologic imperatives i.e., the Kurds voted “no” en masse in their bastions in the South-East of Turkey, Deyar Bakir and Şırnak, as did the Alwits and the yuppy white Turks in the coastal regions and cities.

Kunafa (K'nafa) Photo courtesy of Abdennour Toumi

Kunafa (K’nafa) Photo courtesy of Abdennour Toumi

What does the outcome of the vote mean for the future of new Turkey’s political Second Republic?

The Arab Daily News

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First of all, the victorious party is President Erdoğan himself who every election test since his party took power in 2002 — a very interesting point to mention in this reform citing articles 8 and 9: regarding the president’s terms, the creation of the Vice-presidents post, the suppression of the military courts, and bringing the age to run for office from 25 to 18 in the new constitution. 

As for the president who has no more than two terms in his or her political life, the noun person mentioned in the text instead of the president would cut off any further ambitions for the on-going president to run again for the highest office in the land.

Thus the Kurds and their party HDP have lost big time in the new Turkey because of their explicit divorce with Turkey, as Paris IEP Professor Bayram Balçi put it, he continued “I salute his action in the long term, but here, recently I cannot support him…” And this could make President Erdoğan stronger in future direct talks with the Kurdish nationalists.

English: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip E...

English: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Third Global Forum of the UN Alliance of Civilizations in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the political level, it will force the secular party CHP leadership to review its partisan strategy. Finally, this result will give a second wind push to the nationalists and their party MHP. Some are arguing that Erdoğan will take advantage of these victories to impose and lead an authoritarian regime, in other words, an Ottoman Caliphate!

President Erdoğan is seen as a populist leader, and he will likely pursue persecution practices and become an Ottoman “Sultan” instead of a democratically elected president, so argue his ideological, political and religious opponents like the Gülen movement.

To the contrary argues Professor Ahmet Uysal IRAM Center President in Ankara “The election results show the maturity of Turkish democratic system, and the Turkish administration will be more effective and stable from now on…”

The “yes” vote will enhance the institutional stability to Turkey, as President Erdoğan needs to shore up his power in order to be able to implement his public policies, including foreign and defense policies, in the light of the region’s geo-political turmoil.

De facto, the result of the referendum will lead pens and tongues to predict that President Erdoğan will bring “Sharia” to Turkey and the state ideology that he will impose on Turks. However, if this characterization is true, then whoever travels or lives in Turkey would likely believe he or she is under the dystopian groups rules.

Ironically, major Turkish cities are no different from any European city — bars and restaurants are open in Ramadhan, women are not fully covered, and men are not wearing long kamis and long henna colored beards!

After all, President Erdoğan definitely changed Turkey’s political landscape and the region with it, and he will continue to move his country forward, whether one likes him or not. He certainly erased any lingering doubts that might haunt him and his party that the country is suffering political instability or facing a national security threat.

Nonetheless there are healthy and mature political signs that Turks have been sending to the MENA region and the West.

The victory seems to be methodological for Turkey’s political system.  Sunday’s result is a clear message to the President from the voters; this is not a blank cheque like he wished to get, but a negotiable five-year’ credit loan. Otherwise this victory tastes like a sour Turkish k’nafah with a murra coffee, hence a Turkish model does exist.

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Managing Writer at The Arab Daily News
RAY HANANIA — Columnist

Ray Hanania is an award winning political columnist and author. He covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).

Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and for TheArabDailyNews.com, and TheDailyHookah.com.

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.

His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania

Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com

Visit this link to read Ray's column archive at the ArabNews,com www.arabnews.com/taxonomy/term/10906
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