Analysts see strong Turkey as "yes" ballot prevails

With the high-voltage democratic referendum ending in a "yes" vote in favour of a presidential system, analysts see positive times ahead for Turkey, but worry remains for the government as key cities voted no.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

With the closely watched referendum over, analysts say the bitterly divided nation will now see an end to polarisation.

Updated Apr 17, 2017

Turkey voted "yes" (or evet) on Sunday in a historic democratic referendum to approve constitutional reforms that will set the stage for the country's transition to a presidential system of governance.

Over 55 million Turks were eligible to cast ballots on sweeping changes to Turkey's president's role which would grant more power.

With the closely watched referendum over, analysts say the bitterly divided nation will now see the end of polarisation.

"Turkey is known for holding free and fair elections and the polarisation which we saw in this referendum will come to an end," political analyst Mehmet Celik told TRT World.

People will be forced to reconcile with other (diverging) parties after the 'yes' vote — Mehmet Celik

"Plebiscite on Erdogan"

Earlier on Sunday, Erdogan, voting in the capital Istanbul, said "this is not an ordinary referendum ... This is crucial because it is related to the system of governance." 

"It started as a referendum but it turned into a plebiscite on Erdogan himself," Hakki Ocal, the managing editor at Voice of America told TRT World, interpreting the cause of polarisation in Turkey.

"But in general, Kurds are going to benefit most from the new constitution," he said, arguing that Erdogan's AK Party will introduce a new election law that will benefit Kurdish-dominated southeastern Diyarbakir province, where people largely voted against the new system. 

Turkey's referendum also revolved around issues of geopolitics, economy, the war in Syria and the resultant refugee crisis, the Kurdish insurgency and the fight against Daesh.

"We often say in the United States that, 'Presidents don't make history, history makes the president.' So Erdogan is going to be a stronger president, but all of the geopolitical challenges that were going to be there are still going to be there," said Jacob Shapiro, the director of analysis at Geopolitical Futures.

Critics of Erdogan say a change in the system will give unprecedented power to the office of the presidency, lacking checks and balances – a major poll plank of the opposition parties in the referendum.

West's "warped perspective"

Some western media outlets portrayed the referendum as an Erdogan power grab which Shapiro said was based on a "warped perspective."

"I would say that the global media has had a very strange and warped perspective about this referendum in Turkey. I have seen so many articles comparing Erdogan to Hitler –  which is so ridiculous that I don't even really want to deal with it," he said.

"The referendum will certainly make Erdogan a more powerful president, or whoever occupies that office more powerful. It doesn't mean that democracy is going away."

Economic experts say the "yes" vote will help Turkey enjoy "a much more powerful" trade and economic diplomacy in the region.

"It could also help Turkey have a higher growth rate for the next 10 years," said Kerem Alikn, who teaches international trade and finance at Istanbul-based Medipole University.

We have to change too many laws in the Parliament because this system has to be ready for 2019 — Kerem Alikn

Votes in favour of the constitutional changes narrowed to 51.3 percent on Sunday against 48.7 percent "no" votes, with about 98.8 percent votes counted.

Analysts said the results could be misread by the European countries and Turkey's opposition parties.

"Not only will EU countries misread the results, I am afraid CHP (the Republican People's Party) is also going to misread this," said Hakki Ocal. 

"They (CHP) might think that all the 48 percent vote belongs to them. They might think that their vote came up from 25 percent to 48 percent ... so they might demand an early election in Turkey," he said. 

Meanwhile, the CHP said that "illegal acts" were being carried out in favour of the government in the referendum.

"The High Electoral Board has failed by allowing fraud in the referendum," CHP deputy chairman Bulent Tezcan said.

AK Party shocked in Istanbul

Sunday's elections will also help Erdogan reduce tensions with Europe, observers said.

"Erdogan will try to reduce the tension with Europe and try to find common ground to to reset relations with Europe," Jana Jabbour, a political analyst, told TRT World

"He (Erdogan) is very rational. He understand there is no solid alternative to Turkey other than Europe." 

Others see Sunday's referendum results as a repetition of the 2014 presidential elections. 

"It is a narrow win. It's a reflection of 2014 election of President Erdogan who won with a similar percentage," said Ahmad al Burai, TRT World's editor-at-large. 

"The opposition already started questioning the legality and validity of the result. Still, we need to wait and consider the geographical distribution of the votes to have final and comprehensive conclusions," Burai said, referring to the "no" votes that took the lead in Turkey's three largest cities: Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir.

Source: 
TRTWorld