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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2610

Turkey’s Referendum: Defeat of global anti-Islamists!

By Dr. Abdul Ruff

In a befitting reply to global anti-Islamic propaganda machine against Islamic government in Turkey that sought to defeat the Turkey referendum to make the Presidency as well as nation strong, President Erdogan has won the referendum with a massive popular mandate.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has claimed victory in the vote, which the opposition says looks set to grant him sweeping new powers but that is exactly necessary for the government to defend the nation from enemies within and outside, jointly trying to destabilize Turkey.

This is the first time in Turkish history that the Turkish people have cast their votes on such an important constitutional change. Today, for the first time, the will of the people has shown through this referendum and this is the first time in our history and very important, Erdogan said voters abroad were a big part of the success."We would like other countries and institutions to show respect to the decision of the nation."

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, who led the Yes campaign alongside Erdogan, said: "This referendum once again has proven the level of maturity and the improvement of Turkish democracy to the rest of the world. We are all first-class citizens of our country and we are all equal." He addressed supporters from the balcony at the Justice and Development Party (AKP) headquarters in Ankara. "Our people made their decision and our people said yes to the presidential government system in this country and this nation will never face any guardianship, this nation will never face any external intervention and we will not give in to any threats. And we have shown this once again as a nation."


President Erdogan has argued that creating a presidential system would bring "stability and confidence" to Turkey, state-run media Anadolu reported. "Let's make consolidation in this great historic reform and put in place the foundation stones of a strong, leading and prosperous Turkey with unity, solidarity and integrity," he said. He and his senior ministers have argued that a stronger government is needed to deal with the spate of recent terror attacks.

Currently, the President's role is supposed to be largely ceremonial, but Erdogan has already broken with tradition and kept himself as the face of Turkey's leadership.

The 18-article constitutional reform package has been dubbed the "power bill," and would effectively consolidate the authority of three legislative bodies into one executive branch, with the President as its head. The President would be given the authority to appoint ministers and judges without parliament's approval, design a state budget and dissolve parliament.

With the Turkish people having voted yes, the country will get rid of all the checks and balances that keep the government in line. Under Presidential powers Parliament will become totally ineffective, just rubber stamping Erdogan's policies. There will be no prime minister -- all the power will be in Erdogan's hands."

Shifting Turkey away from a parliamentary republic to a strong, self defensive presidential one, is at the heart of the proposals, but the vote has also become a plebiscite on Erdogan and his footprint on the country.

Global anti-Islamism

Unfortunately, US led war on terror has become a terror war on Islam and Islamic world, targeting Islamist AKP government in Turkey as anti-Islamic tirade including in global media, led by USA and EU focused on Erdogan’s Islamist government.

Western world claims the whole sale custodians of democracy and rule of law and work against Islamic world always finding faults with Islamic nations as their joint policy and Sept-11 hoax them a handle to target Islam at will.

A strong Turkey under Islamic party AKP Is not what the anti-Islamic world, including Israel, wants and in fact it is eager to see entire Islamic world a continuation of Pakistani plight.

The cruel anti-Islamic world, ill focused on Islamist government in European Turkey, spread all sorts of filthy rumors against Islamist Turkey, thereby seeking to destabilize Turkey and fail the referendum the nation is undergoing.

Erdogan’s referendum won a historic victory against all anti-Islamic campaigns of global media.

After the failed coup

Extraordinary changes came to Turkey in July 2016, after a failed military coup prompted a purge that reached just about every institution in public life. According to Turkish state media, 249 people were killed in the coup attempt, and had it been successful, Turkey may have been plunged into civil war.

Although the coup aimed to kill or topple Erdogan and destabilize Turkey and eventually remove Islamist ideas, the President himself declared the attempt a "gift from god" to defend the country’s freedom. His government subsequently imposed a state of emergency giving him unprecedented powers; this has been extended several times. The government has detained tens of thousands of Erdogan's political opponents, as well as journalists and civil society groups and removed more than 100,000 people from their jobs, including teachers and security officers who secretly work against the government.

Among those imprisoned were the leaders of the main pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party, as the government continues to stamp out Kurdish opposition. The purge also targeted anyone with links to Fethullah Gulen, Erdogan's friend-turned-rival, who lives in the United States in exile.

In fact, anti-government protests began a couple of years back. The Turkish people had already seen a strong response from the government, when a 2013 peaceful sit-in over plans to demolish the Gezi Park in central Istanbul turned into a nationwide protest movement against Erdogan, who was then prime minister. At least five protestors and a police officer were killed in clashes, and thousands were injured, according to Human Rights Watch. Erdogan eventually admitted police had used excessive force in the protests.

The opposition and outside powers used the protest to intensify their tirade against the government. Gulen became a safe tool in their hands to engineer coup and terror attacks.

Turkey has also been changed by a series of terror attacks, which some see as a failure by the government to manage long-standing tensions with Kurdish groups and to deal with the Syria conflict on its doorstep.

Almost all recent attacks in Turkey have been blamed on either ISIS or the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The USA and other countries have long called on Turkey to seal its border with Syria, as ISIS appears to have used Turkey as thoroughfare to smuggle people and resources in and out of Syria. Turkey has beefed up its security and launched an anti-ISIS military campaign in Syria, but the attacks have already taken a toll on the country.

Tourism in Turkey is in shambles as it is one of the biggest industries, but now all the hotels are empty. This change was felt profoundly in Istanbul, particularly since the New Year's terror attack, in which dozens were killed. There used to be a thriving urban nightlife, but not now. It's no longer the cheerful happy city it once was, a few Turks and many non-Muslims feel.

Germany got into a diplomatic spat with Turkey just before the referendum, when it refused to let President Erdogan lead political rallies on German soil. About 1.4m Turks living in Germany were eligible to vote. Just ahead of the final results, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said: "We'd be well advised to keep calm and to proceed in a level-headed way."

The Council of Europe, a pan-European human rights body of which Turkey is a member, said in a statement that officials should consider the next steps "carefully" given how close the result was. "It is of utmost importance to secure the independence of the judiciary in line with the principle of rule of law enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights." The council is a distinct entity and is not a branch of the European Union.

The EU Commission said: "In view of the close referendum result and the far-reaching implications of the constitutional amendments, we also call on the Turkish authorities to seek the broadest possible national consensus in their implementation."

A divisive campaign ended in a contested result. President Erdogan declared victory by a narrow margin and called on every side to respect it. But the opposition has not conceded, claiming voting irregularities. It's clouded the legitimacy of the mandate the president now feels he's been given, to concentrate political power in his hands.

Erdogan the hero!

Turkey's President Erdogan is today Turkish hero who has steered his country through a period of extraordinary change. Erdogan has transformed Turkey's democracy based on Islamic teachings. President Erdogan has proved that his party ideology remains supreme in the hearts of people.

Erdogan clearly has charismatic aspects -- the people who love him love him so much, and those few who hate him, they hate him intensely. The country's economic rise has been meteoric, lifting millions of people out of poverty, but it's also suffered a stream of deadly terror attacks and a failed military coup last year, which prompted a clampdown on civil liberties.

Erdogan has essentially ruled Turkey for more than 13 years -- he rose to power as prime minister in 2003 and stayed in that position until he was elected president in 2014.

Turkey today is seen pursuing pro-common people agenda. Many of Erdogan's most loyal supporters come from Turkey's rising middle class, whose lives have transformed in the country's economic boom.

The ruling AKP led government increased earnings of common people of Turkey and for this President Erdogan should be given credit. The average person's income has risen from $3,800 in 2003, when Erdogan became prime minister, to around $10,000 in 2017, according to data from the World Bank. This means the number of people living below the poverty line dropped from 23% of the population to less than 2% in that time. "Now the middle class has a different lifestyle. If you take today a couple in their 30s with two kids, and compare them with another couple 10 years ago, they live a different life," said Marc Pierini, a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe, who served as EU ambassador to Turkey from 2006 to 2011.

When Erdogan became prime minister, his government had adopted the wave of reforms from its predecessors and "got their act together," bringing infrastructure and services to the regions. The government also made credit more easily available to the middle class. Today's couple has an apartment -- of course with a mortgage. They have a car -- of course with credit. They go to shopping centers and they travel. They can take a domestic airline that didn't exist until 2008.

Until around 2012, Erdogan had been a champion of women’s rights—he rose to power in Turkey advancing women’s rights—and as prime minister he pushed through laws on child custody, divorce, and protections against violence that many women's groups applauded.

Elimination of violence against women is apriority in Turkey. Erdogan pursued that policy vigorously, he even replaced ministry of women with the broad based ministry of family and social justice and declared that men and women weren’t equal. In 2016, Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) amended the penal code to make it possible for men who rape girls under 18 to marry their victims, thereby making the sex offenders under check.

Some women activists want to ensure that women are seen not merely as in mere family settings, wives and mothers and within their traditional gender roles. They want to see the women as machines and fighters in streets and source of instability. The impact on women is extraordinary—something world has seen firsthand in NATO wars in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan. Women and girls there often feared even walking on the streets. Foreign forces use the local women as relaxation stuff along with liquor and s cigars, during the terror wars in Islamic world.

Turkey in 2017 is a vastly different country to a decade ago and the Turkish people will vote in a referendum on a new constitution that could hand Erdogan unprecedented powers, cementing his position for years to come.

President Erdogan’s enhanced powers

Despite the negative European responses to the referendum and its popular vote, Turks have voted for the referendum and welcomed the victory as their own.

Erdogan’s supporters view the referendum as a necessary response to the chaos in Turkey. They say the proposed constitutional changes would give the President the tools needed to quell Turkey’s many crises. But. Erdogan’s critics insist that he is trying to take advantage of the turmoil to shroud a major power grab. They say that granting enormous new executive powers to the presidency, when the current office holder has already shown authoritarian tendencies, might sound the death knell for Turkish democracy.

No one questions that Turkey is grappling with a long string of troubles. To reassert control after the failed coup last year, Mr. Erdogan created an administrative vacuum. Many of the purged are accused of association with the movement led by Fethullah Gulen, a reclusive Muslim cleric in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, who Mr. Erdogan says orchestrated the July 15 uprising. But some are dissidents from secular, leftist or Kurdish backgrounds. More than 120 of them are journalists, according to Amnesty International.

The economy in post coup Turkey is now struggling. Many young Turks are out of work. And beyond Turkey’s southern border, Erdogan has dwindling influence on shaping the outcome of the Syrian civil war, should it finally be settled. Turkey has its own internal battles, too. The Islamic State and Kurdish nationalists are waging separate terrorist campaigns on Turkish soil. Adding to this mess, Erdogan has a toxic relationship with Europe.

President Erdogan hoped the win of the referendum would be the crowning moment of his career. But it's left Turkey profoundly polarized, at risk of becoming another chronically unstable part of the Middle East.

Observation: Future of Turkey

For most of the last century, Turkey has been the go-to example of an Islamic country that doubles as a secular democracy, where women enjoy vast freedoms unlike in many Middle Eastern countries. Both Islam and democracy thrived in the country under the Islamist government.

The Erdogan government has raised the diplomatic and economic profile of Turkey and would like to see a much more prosperous nation in Europe. His domestic and foreign polices have moved the EU to hurry up for deal with Turkey over its membership, notwithstanding opposition by a few members like Germany. Turkey applied to become a member of the European Union in 1987. Negotiations only began in 2005 and talks have since hit a wall.

Turkish officials, fed up with fake negotiations by EU, have expressed their ire to the adamant EU over an array of issues -- from refugees to migration rights. And Turkey is showing signs it no longer cares to join the EU union.

Turkey is strong source of support for Global Islam and Arab world and Iran. What's clear is its role as a bridge between the West and the Islamic east is changing. Modern Turkey was built on a foundation of political secularism, but in the past decade, the influence of Islam has crept into Turkish political discourse and policy.

As a result, Turks now appear to be turning away from the essentially anti-Islamic West. People generally dislike the westerners and their hatred for Islam and Turkey.

Polls show the 'Yes' vote, which would grant Erdogan sweeping new powers, stands very high despite anti-Islamic and Anti-Erdogan media rhetoric.

Empowered Erdogan presidency is going to make Turkey as strong as former Ottoman Empire.

- Asian Tribune –

A Turkish citizen living in Hungary casts his vote in Budapest. Souce: Euroactiv/EPA/Noemi Bruzak
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