A Background to the Constitutional Referendum: Reinforcing the Politics of Polarization
On September 12, Turkey will hold a referendum on proposed amendments to its constitution. The proposed changes are aimed at broadening the constitution’s democratic content, expanding and reorganizing the Constitutional Court and the High Council of Judges and Public Prosecutors, and making the architects of the 1980 military intervention subject to prosecution. The need to change many features of the 1982 constitution might have provided the opportunity for the government and opposition to demonstrate agreement on the basic characteristics of the political system, even while disagreeing on policy matters. However, the prime minister appears to have wanted to exploit the constitutional changes to further polarization, which he feels has worked well for him. Irrespective of the outcome of the September 12 referendum, constitutional reform, rather than serving as an opportunity for integration, has created yet another occasion for reinforcing the deep cleavages in Turkish politics.