Expansion of the constitutional powers of the President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan will have profound implications for the future of democratic institutions in the country. So, the victory in the referendum in April 16 very likely lead to a destabilization of the political situation in Turkey and will aggravate the regional isolation of the country, writes William Bolchu in an article for The Strategist.
Changes to the basic law of Turkey preparing for a long time. After serving three terms in the influential post of Prime Minister, in 2014, the policy has taken a symbolic position of the president. But Erdogan, who played a leading role in Turkish politics to 2003 years, was dissatisfied with the limitations of his new post.
In spite of them, he was a key figure in the country's political arena and through its tight control over the Justice and Development Party, he was able to continue to guide the course of national policy. Potential his opponents have been squeezed into the background, especially in May 2016, when was dismissed Ahmet Davutoglu, who spoke against the reforms. Even the decline in the importance of the Party of Justice and Development after the military coup in July 2016 years Erdogan has given an opportunity to expand their extra-parliamentary powers.
And the proposed constitutional changes only to formalize the de facto president of the board. Thanks to the reforms Turkey will turn out in general something like the British Parliament in the American system of separation of powers between the executive and legislative authorities, however Erdogan this separation does not exist.
Having become head of the executive power, Erdogan will be able to consolidate his rule, having the opportunity to remain in power until 2029 year. In the course of exercising his powers, he will be able to exercise greater control over the state by means of decrees, rather than relying on an already obedient party. At the same time, it is expected that the pace of persecution of rivals in the political opposition, bureaucracy, jurisprudence, the armed forces, the media and civil society will increase. In particular, since the failure of the military coup attempt in Turkey to 125, thousands of people have been dismissed from government posts, tens of thousands have been arrested - mostly by the armed forces.
If Erdogan succeeds in consolidating his power, we can expect continuation of the purges, which may lead to yet another attempt by the political opponents of the current head of Turkey to carry out the coup. For example, in October 2016, the retired Turkish army general, who foresaw the July coup, noted that a second coup was being prepared. At the same time, the President of Turkey takes an increasingly Islamist position, the author notes, which was a key factor in the July coup d'état. If we add to this the growing contradictions with the military because of the detention of their servicemen, then a successful referendum for Erdogan could lead to another attempt at a coup d'état.
From these latest polls it is clear that any referendum can win the April referendum. Thus, Erdogan's popularity is approaching its maximum, while the terrorist attacks that swept the country have contributed to the seizure of power. However, economic problems can hinder the leader of Turkey, therefore, to compensate for reputational losses, Erdogan may be forced to take a more aggressive foreign policy before the referendum. He already used this tactic before the election of 2015, when he ordered the resumption of the struggle with the Kurdish separatists after two years of truce.
He may also try to emphasize their belonging to Sunni Islam - a move that has already proved its efficiency among its core support group. Partly as a part of this approach, Erdogan began to play the role of defender of the Sunnis in Iraq and Syria. All this led to the militant skirmish with Iraq in 2016 year when Erdogan demanded that the Shiite forces, liberating Mosul, defended the Sunni population of the city. Strengthening of rhetoric in defense of the Sunnis could lead to a further escalation in the region.
In addition, Erdogan tries to present himself as a strong regional ruler. So, when relations between Ankara and Baghdad worsened in 2016, Erdogan advised the Prime Minister of Iraq "to know his place", adding that he was "not on the same level with me". Six weeks later, Erdogan explained his country's invasion of Syria as a means to "put an end to the rule of hard Assad." Erdogan's growing assertiveness will cause concern to the country's neighbors, who have not forgotten about Turkey's historic role as head of the Ottoman Empire.
Although it is possible that Erdogan refuses to these positions after end consolidation of his power, but damage will already be done. It may be so, that the head of Turkey will not give up its rhetoric of fear that it would undermine his popularity.
In the case of the failure of the referendum, Erdogan can go on a dangerous policy in the search for alternative ways of introduction of the presidential system. In this scenario, it can carry out even harsher persecution of his political opponents, especially among the Kurds. This could entail a number of crises in which Erdogan will prove indispensable leader of Turkey. Moreover, in any referendum rivalry with Iran will continue.