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Considerable change

Apr 18,2017 - Last updated at Apr 18,2017

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won the referendum held Sunday in the country, which gives him massive new powers.

Once the changes come into effect, after the 2019 elections, they will empower the president to appoint senior officials, judges and members of his Cabinet, and to do away with the office of prime minister.

This major change in Turkey’s political order, won by a razor-thin margin — 51.4 per cent voted for it — may not reflect a popular consensus on where the country wants to so dramatically move since the establishment of the republican form of government in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

The opposition Republican People’s Party, led by Kemal Kilicdaroglu, warned after the voting result that the dramatic change would turn Turkey into a “one-man rule” and that the country would become like “a bus with no brakes and whose destination is unknown”.

The party announced that it would contest at least about a third of the votes, accepted by the country’s electoral board even though they did not bear the official seal, a decision observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe said “undermined an important safeguard and contradicted the law”.

Official results will be out in about 10 days, but results are not likely to change dramatically.

Supporters of the new constitution believe that concentrating the executive power in the president’s hands will improve the decision-making process.

Eventually, it will be the Turkish people who decide the fate and future of their country by electing its leader, whoever that may be.

There are countries that opted for the presidential system of government without losing their democratic tradition.

What truly counts is what any form of government contains in terms of checks and balances.

The referendum was held in a country still under a state of emergency, imposed after the failed July 15 coup against Erdogan.

Still, the people of Turkey have spoken and decided that concentrating power in the hands of the president will serve their interests better.

What is left is to form an all-inclusive government, one that does not exclude major political parties from power sharing.

Political prisoners need to be released and political freedoms increased and safeguarded under the new system of government.

A political solution to the so-called Kurdish problem also requires a fresh look. This Turkish minority constitutes nearly 20 per cent of the population. A formula should be found to solve their grievances and aspirations.

 

The country is now seriously divided. The president needs to help heal the wounds.

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