The Battle for Turkey’s Constitution

On September 12, Turks will vote on a set of constitutional amendments proposed by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has been in power for eight years. With the campaign dragging on for months, the referendum has thoroughly polarized Turkish politics, and that is unlikely to change, whatever the outcome.

ISTANBUL – On September 12, Turks will vote on a set of constitutional amendments proposed by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has been in power for eight years.  Since the vote falls on the 30th anniversary of the 1980 military coup, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is portraying the referendum as an opportunity to reject the military regime’s legacy.

Turkey’s constitution has been amended repeatedly since the coup. But its anti-democratic core remains intact – and, unfortunately, the current proposals do not dramatically alter that. 

Most of the previous amendments relied on agreements between governing and opposition parties, and were not put to a popular vote. This time, the AKP acted on its own and was barely able to garner from its own ranks the requisite majority for a referendum. Far from being an occasion for popular condemnation of the coup on its anniversary, the referendum is a mark of the AKP’s failure to gain widespread support for its project.

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