A Troubled Outlook for the Country and Its Transatlantic Partnerships
Turkey’s April 16th referendum confirmed and extended the sweeping powers President Erdoğan had already de facto acquired. It was a very close result, with the “yes” vote at 51.4 percent. Given the significant obstacles and heavy media bias facing the opposition during the campaign, and apparent irregularities in the vote itself, the outcome can hardly be interpreted as a strong mandate. Without question, it suggests a sharply divided society, and a Turkey increasingly at odds with European values and norms. None of this is good news for Ankara’s relations with transatlantic partners.
Before the referendum, some observers had spoken of a positive scenario in which President Erdoğan, having successfully secured broad new powers over parliament, the judiciary and other key facets of the Turkish system, would embark on a more conciliatory approach in rhetoric and practice. This might include a renewed opening to Turkey’s Kurds, reining in the purge of perceived opponents across the political spectrum, a more permissive attitude toward media freedom, and a less confrontational stance with Europe and Washington. Early indications suggest that this reformed posture is unlikely. The President and the AK Party have brushed aside demands for a recount. Renewed calls for the reinstatement of the death penalty and possibly a referendum on continued EU accession talks suggest that the uncompromising line of recent years will continue, and might even be reinforced.