Erdogan benefits from split in Turkish nationalist opposition

Lynne Hanson
April 15, 2017

Erdogan has portrayed his critics, including those in the West, and the "no" camp as sympathizers of or collaborators with the PKK and the USA -based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom he calls a terrorist, accuses of masterminding a failed coup attempt last summer, and wants extradited from the U.S. The vote, in which millions of Turks will decide whether to replace their parliamentary democracy with an all-powerful presidency, may bring the biggest change in their system of governance since the modern Turkish republic was founded on the ashes of the Ottoman Empire nearly a century ago. The changes will allow the president to dissolve the parliament which will trigger the renewal of presidential and parliamentary elections simultaneously. A rejection of Erdogan's proposed constitutional amendments would keep alive the prospect that once this president is no longer in office, Turkey can finally have a shot at curbing the power of its rulers and, perhaps someday, making way for representative, inclusive democracy.

He has also frequently demonised opponents, saying that those who wanted to vote "No" were playing into the hands of the PKK and US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, blamed for the failed July 15 coup.

Meanwhile, Turkey is drifting further apart from Europe, following Erdogan's recent outbursts slamming the governments in the Netherlands and Germany as "Nazis" over their restrictions on Turkish ministers' attempts to court Turkish expatriate votes. Current polls suggest that the results are too close to call.

Erdogan and government officials are accused of using state resources and official functions such as openings of infrastructure projects to campaign in favor of the changes.

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Western governments have criticized the crackdown but Turkey says the measures are necessary given the security threats it faces.

Erdogan lashed out at the OSCE report in a campaign speech Friday in the central city of Konya. The report concluded that "no" supporters had faced bans, police interventions, violent scuffles at their events and arrests in several cases. "Then, they will say that Turkey is not a country to mess with". Who are you? First of all, you should know your place.

The party is no longer so closely associated with violence after two decades of reform under Bahceli's tenure that brought it more into the mainstream.

If approved in the referendum, the changes take effect with the next general elections slated for 2019.

Other reports by TheDailyFarc

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