CESRAN Blog, Turkey and Neighbourhood

Sundays Referendum: Electoral Implications

0 13

After a heated campaign period, the “yes camp” claimed victory on Sunday night in Turkey’s referendum which changes the political system from a parliamentary system to a presidential one. The changes will hand Erdogan sweeping powers. Surely, the vote cemented Erdogan’s role as the most powerful leader in Turkey’s history and sets the stage for him to rule the country until 2029. This is even longer than Kemal Ataturk, the nation’s founder.

Although the results seem to be a success for the governing AKP, the narrow margin left a bad taste in AKP leaders’ mouth.  The results of the Sunday’s referendum have broad implications for both the AKP and the opposition. The most striking (and probably alarming) result for the AKP is its revealed weakness in metropolitan areas. The no-campaign managed to secure victory in the three-biggest cities. Istanbul is especially important for AKP, as Erdoğan started his political career as the mayor of the city. The party managed to win the mayoral elections in Istanbul since its establishment in 2002. The clear implication of this result for the AKP is that it has to develop a new game plan for urban voters.

The results of the referendum as well as many public opinion polls present an alarming picture for the AKP elites. The party is usually strong in the eastern and inner parts of the country. The demographic profile of the AKP voters shows that they are usually coming from the less educated and relatively poor segment of the society. It is true that AKP’s support base among the well-educated urban voters have always been weak. However, the most alarming factor for the party leadership is that they could not come up with policies that would attract the educated-young-urban voters. This might not seem to be a problem for now, but it sure will be in the next decade as the urbanization and education levels are rising. For example, AKP leaders usually refer to their success in healthcare, citing the previous state of the government’s healthcare policy: insufficient number of doctors, healthcare facilities, and prescription coverage. This obviously resonates well with the older voters, who compare their experiences of the pre and post AKP era. However, a good portion of the young voters have no memory of a failed healthcare system, or a country grappling with foreign debt.

The results of the referendum clearly showed that the presidential race will not be a piece of cake for Erdogan and AKP. The current state of the economy is alarming. The inflation rate is on the rise, so is the unemployment. We know that many AKP voters give their decision based on the economy. If the current trend continues and the economic situation in the country worsens, they will probably turn their back to the AKP and seek for new alternatives. It is no secret that the leaders of the AKP and Erdogan in particular crafted the new system with one opinion in mind: that the party will control both the parliament and the presidency. Yet, the narrow margin shows that there is no guarantee for a united AKP government. The party might just lose either the parliamentary majority or the presidency, or maybe both. The close race showed that a strategic campaign by a renewed opposition leadership may have a distinct chance of winning the presidency, or the parliamentary majority.

On a final note: the OSCE report regarding the election has some disturbing conclusions about the referendum.  The following excerpts are particularly striking:

“In general, the referendum did not live up to Council of Europe standards. The legal framework was inadequate for the holding of a genuinely democratic process..”,  “The referendum took place in a political environment in which fundamental freedoms essential to a genuinely democratic process were curtailed under the state of emergency, and the two sides did not have equal opportunities to make their case to the voters…”

Although the Turkish government quickly dismissed these accusations as being politically motivated, the report will have political consequences.  Even though, the report might be politically motivated or biased, perceptions are just as important as facts. Turkey should work on improving its electoral practices to gain the confidence of the international community and ensure the legitimacy of its elections.

About the author / 


Leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  • 25th Issue is Online Now!

    Vol. VI | No. IV – October-November-December 2020 To Download the Magazine Click Here… CONTENTS 05-13….. World News by Ebru Birinci 15-20….. The Jungle Grows Back How can We Redefine the Future World Order in the Tension of Power and Ideas? by Marco Marsili 22-29….. Interview With Professor Katharyne Mitchell by Ozgur Tufekci & Rahman…

  • 24th Issue is Online Now!

    Vol. VI | No. III – July-August-September 2020 To Download the Magazine Click Here… CONTENTS 05-14….. World News by Ebru Birinci 17-24….. Preparedness for an Uncertain Future “The Only Thing We Have to Fear is Fear Itself” by Professor Mark Meirowitz 25-39….. EU LAW vs UK LAW The Primacy of EU Law over National Law:…

  • IEPAS2020 is Going Virtual!

    Dear Friends and Colleagues, IEPAS2020 is Going Virtual! Due to the COVID19 pandemic, we are holding our entire conference virtually by streaming all of the live sessions. You may participate in all of our virtual networking events. In case of missing a session, you may get full access to the replays of every session since all…

  • The 13th issue of JCTS (Journal of Conflict Transformation & Security) is out now…

    The 13th issue of JCTS (Journal of Conflict Transformation & Security) is out now… Vol. 8 | No. 1 | 2020 Click here to Download the Entire Issue   TABLE OF CONTENTS Editor’s Note By David Curran Introduction By Nergis Canefe Research Articles Statelessness as a Permanent State: Challenges to the Human Security Paradigm By…

  • The 19th Issue of The Rest: Journal of Politics and Development is Out Now!

    The 19th issue of the rest: journal of politics and development is out now. Download the issue here… TABLE OF CONTENTS Research Articles Turkish AK Parti’s Posture towards the 2003 War in Iraq: The Impact of Religion amid Security Concerns By Alberto Gasparetto Nigeria and the Great Powers: The Impacts of the Boko Haram Terrorism on…

  • CESRAN International Named again amongst the Top Think Tanks in the World

    CESRAN International is pleased to announce that it has been named again amongst the world’s best think tanks. The 2019 Global Go To Think Tank Index ranked CESRAN International 141st among the World’s “Top Think Tanks in Western Europe” 75th among the World’s “Top Environment Policy Think Tanks” 153rd among the World’s “Top Foreign Policy…