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Turkey is heading out of Europe after the referendum

Interview with Cengiz Aktar

A billboard with picture of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and a slogan for the "Yes" at the referendum

A billboard with picture of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and a slogan for the "Yes" at the referendum Murad Sezer/Reuters

In an analysis published in Le Monde one week after the 15 July failed coup Cengiz Aktar, Turkish writer and political scientist, wrote that “the military putschists had effectively handed Erdoğan the kind of presidential regime that he’d been dreaming of since 2010” and that a referendum (or early election) would be the mean to start the process of presidentialisation.
This really happened, but in the 16 April vote Erdoğan did not won as he expected, since the “No” votes reached 48.82%. Gariwo spoked with Aktar about this outcome in this interview

First of all it’s not a constitutional reform, actually it’s a process of “deconstitutionalization” because the text that will come out with the amendments doesn’t look like a constitution, moreover it’s not like any known constitution in the world. It defines the so-called “President of Republic system of government”, there is not such a thing nowhere in the world. It’s a bizarre design aimed just at satisfying the political needs of one individual, Erdoğan. The amendments are conducive to a sort of regime that we have seen in 1920’s or 1930’s in Italy, Greece, Hungary, Romania, and Germany. In this referendum the “No” votes were more than 50% but there were widespread irregularities. But in Turkey there is no functioning independent judiciary to consider the complains of the two opposition parties and citizens regarding these massive irregularities. The Electoral Board is systematically refusing to consider these because it is totally at the service of the regime.
We are in a very complicate situation, people are extremely angry. Right after the referendum on Tuesday the Parliament has just passed a single law, to prolong the State of Emergency until mid-July and immediately returned to vacation... Today the government intends to use all its power to block all possible opposition to the results of the referendum.

How do you explain the approval to the reform by some of the Turkish communities abroad, in Germany, Austria and Netherland? Do you think it’s because part of the Turkish immigrants, despite living very comfortable in those Countries, still feel to be “second-class citizens” and because of the stronger influence Islam is having especially on the second- and third-generation immigrants?

Turkish immigrants have always voted like this, it’s a classical pattern. It has nothing to do with Islam; it has more to do with the lack of political consistency by these people….. For the last fourteen years they voted for AKP in the Turkish elections, but the same people voted for social democrats, socialists, when they vote in their new country, where they live and work. Now this paradox has become very evident, because the AKP, the party of Erdoğan, has become something else. And this has become a serious concern for many in Europe and in Turkey.

A referendum on Turkey’s EU accession and on the death penalty, that Erdoğan immediately mentioned after the approval of constitutional amendments, will be the next steps?

As for the death penalty he doesn’t need a referendum because he might get the majority in the Parliament. As for Europe, the most important trend that we should have in mind is that Turkey now is heading out of Europe. And as for the OSCE monitors, who reported irregularities (at the referendum), their reports were blatantly rejected by the government.

With which consequences on Turkey’s relations with the EU and in general on its foreign policy?

When Turkey cuts its links to Europe, the most important consequence for European and in general Western countries, including the United States, will be its NATO membership’s fate, a very crucial issue. Because the West is chilled at the idea of a Turkey entering the Russian sphere of influence. For Turkey it would have tremendous consequences and also for the economy, because Turkey cannot economically survive without Europe.

Can the EU do something to support the Turkish citizens who voted against the presidential reform and hoped in an improvement of the educational, judicial, economic and administrative systems in Turkey to meet European criteria?

Who knows? In Europe many politicians are more than happy if Turkey now is by itself, gets out of Europe and anyway they have neither the power nor the energy to help Turkish democrats. It’s a very difficult time for Turkish democrats.

by Viviana Vestrucci

21 April 2017

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