The Turkish people were given an arduous task –to either vote “Yes” or “No” for a number of constitutional changes that would empower the President. On 16 April they headed out to the polls and chose in what was one of the most important decisions that would radically change Turkey and possibly their own future. The Referendum was also going to be a test of time and a place within the international system for Turkey. And the decision turned out to be a close call with 51% for Yes and 49% for No.

The referendum serves as a bid to transform the otherwise parliamentary system of Turkey into a presidential one. This means that the president can now play the core role in the internal as well as external domains of politics. It also means that the position of the prime minister would no longer be needed. The referendum also aims to propose a round of constitutional amendments among them are; there will be newly created posts of possibly more than one vice presidents, the president not only becomes the head of the dtate but also the head of the executive and does not have to forfeit his/her ties to their political party, the president will be the one having the power to appoint ministers, formulate the budget, and appoint judged.

The president can also enact laws because the position will grant him/her the power to hold certain decrees which enact laws. Then there is the fact that it will be in the hands of the president to dismiss the parliament and announce any state of emergency. There will be certain other handicaps for the parliament, one of them being the fact that it would no longer be able to hold any enquiries or inspect any ministers and to put the president to trial would require two-third majority.

Furthermore the number of the Member Parliament’s MP’s would increase to 600 from 550. Apart from these there are around eighteen other amendments which would pass. With the AK Party which is the ruling party and one of the strong proponents of the Yes vote along with Nationalist Movement Part or MHP leading—there will be singlehandedly certain impacts and implications for the domestic foyer of Turkey. But this result not only decides the future of Turkey but also is spread out to regional and international implications and impacts.

Firstly, in the domestic domain the referendum will have certain hard-hitting impacts in terms of politics and economy. The internal politics will become somewhat blurry. At one end it will end the uncertainty as well as the instability within the political realm. Since this meant it was to be a call for unity amongst the chief political factions—it proved to a large extent that it was. They stuck together before and now that they have certain power in the face of Erdoğan, they will be more united. Another idea is that, no matter how many analysts might see Erdoğan as now being authoritarian, the very act of the referendum and the close call of the winning side was something of a democratic win for Turkey. Yet on the other side there will be some attempts of forming coalitions to oust the president by forming two-third majority. But it seems that these coalitions will be short-lived and will not define the Turkish politics.

Economically, there was seen a boost in stock market soon after the result was announced but one cannot be too sure that how much benefit will sustain. This has two sides—at one side there can be some sharp edged economic reforms by the AKP with Erdogan heading which will bring out more investors in the businesses. But on the other side the economic turn will also be dependent on the how the West deals with Turkey post-Referendum. All in all, the situation seems to be rather perplexing because things seem to be in a jiffy and at the same time, they also find themselves working. As per some analysts—the overarching political or economic impacts might not be much because things will seldom change much.

The implications this referendum has are purely social for Turkey. The result proves that it was a close call and if 51% people voted Yes—there are also 49% who opposed. This means that there is a sharp divide within Turkish population regarding the politics. Particularly the fact the most from the Kurdish side voted No opens up a new reality for the internal dynamics of Turkey. in this case, this might be the one wave of insecurity which could be birthed for the politics.

Secondly, talking about how this will affect Middle East and the European Union one does not need to dig much deep. For Middle East, the chief crises are Iraq and Syria and in both Turkey has a part to play. Yet the referendum will seldom show any signs of change of policies as yet. This is largely due to the fact that Erdoğan was the one who had chiefly maneuvered the policies in these two crises. Nothing will be much be altered except of course the fact that Erdoğan might become somewhat commanding in Middle East. This will go on to fit very well in the idea of Neo-Ottomonism and the Rise of Turkey. but apart from that, not much can change unless Erdoğan himself feels a change which was to some extent the case beforehand.

In terms of the rest of the Arab states, Iran and Israel—which all seem to be silent as yet things might become less steady. With the on-going scenario the least happy might be the Arabs and the Iranians. This is largely because these sides now are caught in a very unpredictable scenario because though not much for the rest has changed, for these actors Erdoğan remains impulsive.

The EU could be a different story because the Turkish side is already in a state of perplexity as to what needs to be done. The feud with Netherlands and Germany only put more fuel to the fire. But certain things come to the surface; one—this result is something repulsive for the EU because they see Erdoğan as an authoritarian. Two—this also means that some of the proposed amendments which might bring Turkey back into the lapse of stability are seen as erratic and anti-human rights by the EU. Third—this could mean that Erdoğan will have to put up a big fight in order to attain EU membership which will be opposed vehemently and finally—the gap between the people of the EU and that of Turkey has now been more widened and will not be filled anytime soon. This can be somewhat catastrophic for Turkey-EU relations in the future.

Lastly, in terms of the international implications and impacts—one cannot simply be too sure. For one thing the entire International arena realizes how intermittent the events of the system are. This was one which they had at least sought somewhat and were prepared. for Russia it means good news because this result can further bring Turkey and Russia closer. It now means that both the states have leaders of the same kind. Moreover Erdoğan knows the importance of Russia and Putin.

For the US the result means a bad omen but maybe one with good consequences. Trump is equally unpredictable and one can never know when he might feel like baiting for Erdoğan particularly after the Syrian attack and the feedback from Turkey. Even the idea of Trump turning in Gullen could open up a new chapter. But largely things in this regard remain highly elusive. For Pakistan, their relations with Turkey will not be digressing much. Erdoğan had a big hand to play before and will do so even now. The steady relations of Erdoğan and the Sharifs will grow more especially if the ruling party PML-N comes back in tenure after the next general elections. It will also mean greater military relations between the two states.

But in terms of the Western and or International media—the result seems gory and it goes on to prove that a larger gap exists in understanding what, where and how Turkey stands and goes about in its political realm. The Turkish people and analysts see that the portrayal of the referendum and Erdoğan as an authoritarian in sharp contrast to the result means that a vacuum of understanding exists when it comes to Turkish politics.

All in all, things will only change a small percentage in Turkey because even before Turkey and Erdoğan had become largely synonymous. It only seems that now there is more of a legal touch to it. Yet the referendum served as an opportunity to check how seasoned the Turkish population has become in democracy and it seems that with a large turn-out—they are pretty seasoned. Many think that the system of checks and balancing would diminish while many other believe that it will be better for Turkey with the Presidential system, the scheme of the things is largely inconclusive yet. Only time will tell how this referendum actually impacts the Turks and where the dust actually goes on to settle.

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Amna Javed is a graduate of School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid e Azam University, Islamabad. Presently she is engaged in her post-graduate research focused on Turkey
  • Akif Sattar

    More research needed to be done on the subject. System would remain parliamentary as parliament is still there, rather it would be presidential democracy. Parliament still has all powers to enact, amend and remove laws. Declaration of state of emergency by the President will be subject to the approval of the Parliament. Parliament has the power to reduce or increase the duration of the state of emergency, and many more shared powers between Parliament and President will be the part of constitution.

    • Aay

      You are half right. But it will be an executive system since the President is the one who will head the state, the party and the government. The removal of the P.M as the head of the state means that the parliamentart system no longer persists.
      The powers will be shared no doubt but most things will need a lot of majority in the Parliament and can at times be subject to Presidential or Executive decrees