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The Cost of Turkey’s 2017 Referendum

Turkey held a referendum on April 16 on whether to approve the constitutional reforms pushed by President Erdoğan and his AKP (Justice and Development Party).  With 51% of voters saying Yes, the constitutional amendments were accepted. These amendments will not only change the political system from parliamentary to presidential, but they will also finally institutionalize the broader political trend that has been transforming Turkey through the past years, most particularly since 2011.  Pursued ambitiously by the ruling AKP, this change involved a dramatic centralization around the head of the executive branch and prioritizing of “majority will” represented by a strong leader,  rather than a pluralist, deliberative, and consensual democracy. Thus, to some extent the reforms  merely legalized the de facto form of governance, as the government authorities themselves acknowledged.[1]

Nevertheless, the referendum has left the 49 % which said No feeling more marginalized and frustrated than ever before.  Thus, the already deep polarization among the supporters and opponents of Erdoğan’s policies which had been tearing Turkish society apart reached a new level after the referendum.

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