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Is Turkey About to Vote to End its Democracy?

April 14, 2017
Plain English Version

A billboard carrying a picture of Turkish President Erdogan in Istanbul. Photo: Reuters

The United Kingdom chose to leave the European Union. Turkey is about to choose whether to end its democracy.

A referendum is set for this Sunday, April 16, 2017. If the citizens vote “Yes,” there will be a big change. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will get new powers to govern.

Polls show a “yes” vote is likely.

Last July, there was an attempt to overthrow the government. It failed. But it gave Erdogan a reason to declare a state of emergency. A great purge began. The targets of the purge were the army, the universities, judges, the press and political opponents. It has left the country with crippled institutions.

Just a few years ago, Turkey was on its way to becoming a member of the European Union. It was a secular country. It was famous for its culture.

The world changed. The two big changes were the rise of the Islamic state and the civil war in Syria. These events resulted in a sea of migrants headed to Turkey. Most were flowing through Turkey on their way to Europe.

Turkey had to defend itself from these events. It opposes Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But did not go to war with Syria. It did move against the Islamic State.

Erdogan wanted more power. His opponents were secular. He began to endorse Muslim practices. Religious leaders gained power.

He faced challenges. Migrants were crowding his border. Terrorists were active in Turkey. He made a deal with the European Union on dealing with migrants. Turkey needed Europe, and Europe needed Turkey.

The coup attempt gave Erdogan a reason to seize more power. The referendum is a “democratic” way to justify the seizure.

If the referendum passes, it will make Turkey less “Western.” The jails are already filling up. The opposition is going into hiding or leaving. There is no doubt that Turkey is on the brink of becoming an authoritarian state. Look at Egypt as an example.

Democracy is not efficient. It involves discussions, arguments, and

compromises. Turks will vote on the referendum, and their future, on Sunday.

Source: The New York Times April 12, 2017

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