Turkish anti coup rally in Istanbul, 22 July 2016 | Wikipedia / Mstyslav Chernov
On April 16, Turkey held a historic and controversial referendum brought forward by the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), aiming to approve 18 amendments to the Turkish Constitution. These amendments were primed to give Turkey’s current President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, sweeping powers, including merging the office of Prime Minister with the presidency, giving the President more control over judicial appointments, and making him the only official capable of announcing a state of emergency and dismissing parliament.
President Erdogan rode a wave of nationalism following a series of terrorist attacks that have recently plagued the country, in addition to an attempted military coup last July, to justify this referendum. The vote ultimately came down in favour of the Yes vote with 51.41%, while the No vote received 48.59%. This is far below the 55% threshold that Erdogan was predicting. The large metropolitan centres of Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir all rejected the proposals.
Since the referendum’s outcome was publicised, several videos have appeared disputing the validity of Erdogan’s victory. One shows a village leader putting numerous voting slips in a ballot at once, while another chooses ‘Yes’ on three different pieces of paper. To top it all, a member of the Council of Europe observer mission said that up to 2.5 million votes could have been manipulated. The Yes vote’s margin is 1,124,091 votes. President Erdogan is, of course, rejecting these claims and his government has proclaimed that foreign observers lack objectivity on the matter.
The Turkish government has wasted no time shortly after the referendum to heighten tensions with Cyprus, performing military exercises off the southwest coast of the island, near natural gas fields that have recently been discovered and to which Turkey is attempting to lay claim.