Turkish Referendum: Divided We Stand
The outcome of the September 12 referendum reflects Turkey’s deeply divided politics, with the conservative and highly religious voters on one side of the divide, and the more secular and modern voters on the other. The result means that the leaders of the last military coup can be tried, new appointments on the High Courts will perpetuate struggles between the government and the opposition, and the AKP can once again voice the possibility of a change from parliamentary democracy to a presidential system. This is perceived in the secularist camp as the AKP’s attempt to establish an elected sultan. The ideas the party seems to be toying with do not bode well for the prospects of either a form of elite consensus or convergence over the nature of democracy in Turkey. Turkey has entered a new phase of the campaign for the 2011 elections in which the country’s democratic culture will be fiercely debated and eventually voted upon in an environment dominated by intense conflict between two distinct cultural camps. A familiar pattern of crisis surrounding the legitimacy of the constitution will continue to resurface periodically, as it has since 1961. Only now the two sides will be reversed.