Turkey’s questionable Recep for success
Dreams of empire help fuel support for an increasingly autocratic leader
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is triumphant. Sunday’s referendum ends debate on forging a stronger presidency, he told supporters. Concentration of power is needed to "prevent instability".
"Yes" voters responded jubilantly with celebration rallies around the country. But the referendum reveals Turkey’s deep divisions. Just 51% of Turks voted in favour of giving sweeping powers to the president.
The vote was conducted under a state of emergency that has been in place ever since an attempted coup in July last year.
The main opposition party is calling for the referendum results to annulled, citing irregularities. And European election observers said the referendum took place in a political environment where fundamental freedoms were curtailed.
It’s little wonder that Erdogan is more frequently depicted as an autocrat.
Divisive rhetoric has marred the race. Government has equated "no" voters with terrorist groups, while the opposition has accused Erdogan of securing his position in a dictatorship.
But Erdogan’s supporters suggest his actions — including his recent spat with Europe — are a defence of Turkey’s nationalism. Some see Erdogan’s Turkey as the closest the country has come to its Ottoman history.
Unfortunately for him, the narrow margin of his win could have the opposite effect of the stability that he seeks. It could stoke more volatility in a country regularly attacked by Isis, with an unhappy Kurdish minority, that is flanked by war-torn Syria and that has just survived a coup.