On Sunday, the people of Turkey voted on a referendum that would grant President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sweeping new powers. The Hill writes that it “would institute constitutional reforms, including giving Erdogan broader powers to appoint ministers and judges. It would also reportedly eliminate the country’s office of prime minister.”
The referendum passed – with just 51.4 percent.
Some have suggested that the voting was manipulated in Erdogan’s favor. According to CNN:
Representatives from a coalition of international bodies said the vote took place on an “unlevel playing field” with the “yes” campaign dominating media coverage. Voters were not provided with adequate information, opposition voices were muzzled and the rules were changed at the last minute, they said.
Unsurprisingly, Turkish officials deny such claims.
Organizations monitoring the vote concluded that the government crackdown following the failed coup against Erdogan in 2016 curtailed “fundamental freedoms essential to a genuinely democratic process.” They also found that the “state media was biased in favor of Erdogan.” Additionally, some of those standing in opposition to the referendum were “subjected to police intervention at events,” notes CNN.
Haaretz reports that thousands of people marched in the streets following the vote, yelling: “Thief, Erdogan!” and “No to the presidency!”
According to Reuters:
Erdogan, whose narrow victory laid bare the nation’s divisions, told flag-waving supporters that foreign election observers should “know their place” and Turkey did not “see, hear or acknowledge” criticism that the vote did not live up to international standards.
If unchallenged, the referendum will give Erdogan much more centralized control over the people of Turkey.
Despite all the turmoil surrounding the vote, and the disturbing power it would grant the Turkish president, it’s been reported by multiple outlets that U.S. President Donald Trump allegedly called Erdogan to congratulate him on his victory.
It seems incredibly foolish for Trump to offer praise to a despot who wants to implement strict control over his people, and who did so in a climate that was likely manipulated. Until more is known, however, further commentary must be reserved.
According to The Hill, requests for comment from the White House have gone unanswered.