Turks will go to the polls on April 16, 2017. They are voting on a referendum. The referendum would change the Constitution of Turkey. It would give the Turkish president much more power than he has now.
The president is Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Last fall there was an attempt to overthrow his government. It was a military coup, and it failed. The attempt caused Erdogan to take ruthless steps. He is trying to seize control of the state. He is trying to curtail freedom in his country. He is shutting down a free press. He is arresting teachers and closing schools. He is jailing many who oppose his politics.
There is propaganda everywhere. It supports Erdogan and his vision of Turkey. He is telling people only he can stop the acts of terrorism occurring in the country.
The Turkish parliament agreed to the referendum. By law, Erdogan should be neutral on the referendum. He is not. Thousands of Turks live outside of Turkey. Many of them can vote in the referendum. Erdogan sent his ministers to France, Germany and the Netherlands to look for votes. These countries are NATO members.
Leaders in those countries would not let big rallies take place for security reasons. Erdogan charged them with “Nazi-like behavior.” Leaders met his charges with angry statements. Erdogan’s tactics may be the start of a big rift. The European Union has condemned him.
Turkey has many things about which to worry. Turkey is key in the traffic of migrants to Europe. The country borders Syria. More than a million Syrian migrants have settled on both sides of the border. Turkey opposes Assad in Syria. Turkey is working with Russia on a solution. Russia supports Assad.
The Kurds are working with the U.S. and Iraq to fight Assad. Turkey thinks the Kurds are trying to create a civil war in Turkey, which has a large Kurdish population.
No one knows what will happen if the referendum fails. Most believe they know what will happen if it passes. Erdogan will assert more control over the country. This power is alarming to people who think of Turkey as a Western democracy. It is a country that has a large role to play in the Middle East and Europe.