Turkey’s Constitutional Referendum of 2010 and Insights for the General Elections of 2011
By Hatem Ete, Nuh Yilmaz & Kadir Ustun
The constitutional referendum of September 2010 was a historic moment and a milestone in modern Turkey’s democratization journey. Serving as the public’s “final say” on the question of democracy in Turkey and paving the way for a new civilian constitution, the referendum will have far-reaching consequences for civil-military relations, independence of the judicial system, and institutionalization of democracy in Turkey. This study investigates theconsequences of the referendum for the shaping of the political scene in Turkey by analyzing the political parties’ campaign strategies, voting patterns, voter preferences, and likely scenarios for the June 2011 general elections.
The report is divided into four main parts that tackle the main questions that the referendum of 2010 raised. First, what is the significance of the September 2010 constitutional referendum in Turkey? Second, what campaign strategies were most effective during the referendum? Third, what can be deduced from the voting patterns and voter preferences? Fourth, what can we predict about the June 2011 general Elections based on voter behaviors during the constitutional referendum of 2010?
The study of the September 2010 constitutional referendum results revealed significant clues as to what could be the results of the June 2011 general elections. The AK Party’s referendum campaign strategy, constructed around “democratic freedoms,” resonated strongly among voters in Turkey. Having analyzed the geographic distribution of votes during the referendum, this report demonstrates that the opposition parties took the risk of becoming merely local or regional parties while the AK Party was the only party with the political discourse that would address the themes that concerned voters across Turkey.
The June 2011 general elections may prove to be the most important elections in Turkey’s recent electoral history. Just as a strong preference for “democratic freedoms” among voters became clear during the referendum, the upcoming general election in Turkey is poised to determine who is to survive Turkey’s political landscape over the next decade.