Socialist Worker

Turkey’s president wins referendum through force and fraud

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2550

Graffiti in Turkey calling for a no vote

Graffiti in Turkey calling for a no vote (Pic: Flickr/Charles Roffey)


Protesters took to the streets of several Turkish cities last Sunday after authorities declared victory for president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a referendum.

The vote is surrounded by corruption and fraud.

Erdogan had called the referendum to give him sweeping new powers.

They include removing the role of prime minister, the right to appoint all ministers and prepare the budget, choose most senior judges and enact laws by decree.

Erdogan predicted he would win at least 55 percent of the vote. In fact, the supreme election council said just over 51 percent had voted Yes and nearly 49 percent No.

But opposition parties demanded an investigation and a recount after large numbers of ballots were counted despite not having an official verification stamp.

The government has packed the electoral council with its supporters during the last nine months.

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The head of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, said the referendum’s legitimacy was open to question.

His right wing social democratic party said it would demand a recount of up to 60 percent of the votes.

Selma Gurkan, general secretary of the Labour Party of Turkey, said, “We will continue our struggle against the shady referendum outcome.

“The people have not consented to the ‘one-man, one-party dictatorship’ rule.”

Even if the results declared had been accurate, the No campaign did well given the scale of repression.

Erdogan squashed opposition media, banned No campaign rallies and jailed much of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) leadership.

The three biggest cities—Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir—all voted No. Erdogan used to be the mayor of Istanbul and this is the first vote he has lost in the city since 2002.

But for Erdogan a win—however contested—is still a win. He demonstrated his ability to mobilise millions, especially in rural areas.

His appeal is based partly on intimidation, partly by appealing to voters who feel Erdogan stands up for ordinary Muslims against big business and the military.

He also suggests that the only alternative to his rule is the horrors over the border in Syria.

Erdogan is likely to try to keep up the momentum by crushing protests and stepping up the war in the Kurdish areas.

But the left will also feel stronger and must now find a way to mobilise—without relying on forces such as the European Union.

Bankers and bosses were pleased with the victory for “strongman” Erdogan.

The lira, the country’s currency, rose by 2 percent after losing more than 20 per cent of its value since a failed coup last summer.


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