As Turkey went to the polls to make their decision on the constitutional amendment yesterday, the people of Turkey, once more, demonstrated their dedication to democratic involvement and the democratic process. They went to the ballot boxes in high numbers and as these sentences were being written, the reported turnout rate was around 84 percent.
This demonstrated that Turkish people are willing to make their own decision about the future of the country. The “yes” votes in the election are currently at 52 percent and it was expected that with the votes of the Turkish citizens living abroad this may increase another few points.
Especially with votes coming in from countries where there were significant tensions after some of the European governments were unwilling to allow the “yes” bloc to campaign. But, despite the problems turnout rates there also increased.
This critical referendum aimed at fixing a system that has been generating significant crises for Turkey’s governance. This issue became particularly destabilizing as the country finds itself dealing with threats posed by multiple terrorist organizations, millions of refugees and an unstable region with failed states. Under these circumstances, Turkey’s economy and politics became very sensitive to the problems related to governance and political deadlocks.
Thus, in the referendum, a majority of the people in Turkey, with high turnouts, voted in order to fix the system through the introduction of an executive presidency. This new system will end the dual executive system that was established by the 1982 constitution. The president will continue to be directly elected by the people as decided in the 2007 referendum.
From now on, the government and the Parliament will have some major responsibilities, passing laws and regulations so as to provide a smooth transition to the new system of governance in Turkey.
The first step of this process will of course be the reconstruction of the executive body, in order to make it more effective. The efficiency from the executive office was one of the biggest expectations of Turks going in to the polls. Bringing an end to the two-headed executive system will be an important step towards realizing this goal.
The Turkish people are expecting a new system that will take every possible lesson from previous crisis in Turkish politics and economy.
In terms of economy, expectation included economic management that provides stability, an increase in growth rates and increasing coordination among different agencies that runs the country’s economy.
In the political sphere, voters were expecting the new system would prevent any form of deadlocks that might block the system as a whole, and if it does happen the new system would be able to ask the nation’s will, to resolve the disputes.
Another important expectation of the people from the new system is that it will prevent intervention by institutions, including the military, in the realm of politics. In regards to coups and coup attempts, the July 15 coup attempt made it important to find a new way to deal with this significant threat to Turkish democracy.
Together, these factors would greatly contribute to the stability of the country. A second expectation is related to Turkey’s security and its fight against terrorism. Especially, the threat of terrorism has been the priority for the Turkish public, since the beginning of the attacks from different terrorist organizations two years ago. There have been dozens of these attacks that cost the lives of hundreds of civilians and members of security forces.
With this referendum, the Turkish public expects a more effective response to terrorism and the necessary mechanism that would be able to deal with the threat in the long run.
Not only the government and governing political party, but also opposition parties need to contribute to this process of transition to the presidential system. The people made their choice about the constitutional amendments and their expectation needs to be understood by all responsible political figures in Turkey.
This article was first published in Daily Sabah on April 17, 2017.