Erdogan recreates Turkish sultanate

President Tayyip Erdogan © Getty images

Turkey has entered a “daunting and unpredictable new chapter” in its history, says The Guardian. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan narrowly won last Sunday’s referendum on a new constitution that grants him “unprecedented and wide-ranging powers”.

The reforms will “all but recreate Turkey as a sultanate”. Its “already tense” relationship with the EU will deteriorate at a time when Turkey’s cooperation over the refugee crisis is still critical, and if Erdogan fulfils his threat to reintroduce the death penalty, all hopes of EU accession are dead. The referendum has also polarised Turkish society, risking instability. Half of the population rejected changes that will give 63-year-old Erdogan “control over parliament, the judiciary and all government ministries” and could keep him in power for life, says David Gardner in the Financial Times.

He won just 52.5% of the vote, even though he and his neo-Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) “held all the cards”. Since an attempted coup last July, Erdogan has ruled under a state of emergency, which he immediately sought to extend following his victory. During this time he has “closed 180 media outlets, seized scores of businesses, purged 130,000 civil servants and jailed more than 40,000”.

Although the opposition says that it will challenge the result, it is unlikely that it will be overturned, given Erdogan’s control over public institutions, says The Wall Street Journal. Barring a popular uprising, Erdogan is likely to “consolidate even more power”.

Despite the narrow victory, and the fact that the vote is still in dispute, Donald Trump called Erdogan to offer his congratulations within hours, says David Graham in The Atlantic. He may feel an affinity for Erdogan or he may simply be ignorant, but he may also know “exactly what he’s doing” and want to keep Erdogan on side. As Tamara Cofman Wittes, a former Obama State Department official, points out, Trump’s “concern in Turkey right now is its role in Syria and its role in the Isis campaign. The referendum is nothing more than a distracting delay.”

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