With the result of Sunday’s referendum on its constitution, Turkey as we know it is over; it is history.
The architecture of its governance designed by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk – Turkey’s founder – has, after a wobbly series of experiments with the military and a secular elite in charge, been dismantled by the leader of the Justice and Development party (AKP). The collapse of the rule of law that took place in slow motion after the Gezi Park protests has been followed by the erosion of the separation of powers and the annihilation of the independent media.
It’s hard not to notice the striking resemblance to the sequence of events in Germany from 1933: the Reichstag fire, the Night of the Long Knives, the infamous referendum in 1934. The similarities give one a powerful sense of history copy-and-pasting itself. No wonder those who once shrugged at such comparisons are now in shock – particularly when they heard the harsh rhetoric of President Erdoğan’s victory speech: he pledged to an ecstatic crowd that one of his highest priorities is to reintroduce capital punishment.
This is one possible interpretation. Another is that Sunday’s result was the closing of a chapter in which the “periphery” of Turkish society – rural and mainly pious – took its revenge on the “centre” of the old republic. That is what some figures of the AKP have called “the silent revolution”.
“The Turkish republic has an undeniably complicated history,” wrote Steven Cook, from the Council on Foreign Relations, in an essay for Foreign Policy, entitled RIP Turkey; 1921-2017.
“It is an enormous achievement. In the space of almost a century, a largely agrarian society that had been devastated by war was transformed into a prosperous power that wielded influence in its own region and well beyond. At the same time, modern Turkey’s history has also been nondemocratic, repressive and sometimes violent. It thus makes perfect political sense for Erdoğan to seek the transformation of Turkey by empowering the presidency and thereby closing off the possibility once and for all that people like him will be victims of the republic.”...
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