IBNA/Analysis: A divided Turkey before the Referendum     

IBNA/Analysis: A divided Turkey before the Referendum     


Turkey is preparing for the crucial referendum of April 16th but conditions are not ideal; 47,155 people have been imprisoned and remain in prison on charges for participating in the failed coup attempt as well as on being connected with Fethullah Gulen’s Islamic “Hizmet” movement.

The Turkish Government believes that the movement is behind the attempted coup of 15the July 2016. Another 113.260 Turkish citizens were arrested on the same charges and were subsequently let go on probation.

The problem of managing the state mechanism is huge as there are 10,732 officers, 7,463 soldiers of which 168 of them are generals among the prisoners. 2,575 judges and prosecutors have been lead to prion. This situation clearly demonstrates that Turkey will have a huge problem in its tate mechanism even after the referendum and despite the result.

A change of strategy for Erdogan a few days before the referendum

Until recently Recep Tayyip Erdogan made serious accusations against those who expressed their refusal to constitutional reform promoted by him. “The “no” supporters and the terrorists who want to dismantle our country are on the same side. If someone ays “no” it’s like supporting terrorism”, stated Erdogan in an interview with television network ATV. This statement caused much debate in Turkey as almost half of the voters, according to the percentage that would prevail, were characterized by the the country’s president as supporters of terrorism!

The division in Turkey has reached dangerous levels and “yes” supporters as well as “no” supporters express extreme positions.

The opposition threatens to throw “yes” supporters into the sea!

Husnu Bozkurt deputy of the Republican People’s Party CHP for the Konya district, threatened that if the “yes” vote prevails they will throw whoever supports it into the sea of Izmir “as we did with the imperialists in 1922. We will go in Sakarya in Ankara and we will pursue you until Izmir as we did then, we will not deliver the country to people like you”, he said, causing the reaction of CHP President Kemal Kilicdaroglu who said that”politicians should be careful to what they say and to how they say it.” Erdogan wondered if this MP “is retarded or a fool.”

Erdogan’s first elections without his Chief of Communications – He was killed the night of the coup  

The election result will have another interesting reference point. This is Erdogan’s first election campaign without his friend and chief of Communications Erol Olcok who was killed by soldier fire on the night of July 15. Olcok was considered a ”magician” and had managed to read Turkish society like an open book which resulted in the AKP not only winning every election since 2002 but also in increasing its percentage.

His advertising method was considered critical. Before every election he was regarded as the General of the party. His absence might be the reason why several mistakes were made in this election campaign. For example the alliance with the nationalists and the nationalist rhetoric that prevailed with Erdogan and Yildirim, resulting in the alienation of the Kurdish voters who voted for the AKP.

Thus Erdogan was forced to visit Diyarbakir recently, considered a stronghold of the Kurds and go to the Van holding the Koran published in the Kurdish language in a bid to attract some voters. The alliance with the MHP nationalists did not bring the expected results as their leader Devlet Bahceli has no control over the party and the intraparty opposition supports the “no” vote.

The Turkish president changed his rhetoric in recent speeches emphasising that “those who say “no” are not terrorists. We all live in the same country”. Experienced analysts estimate that these sudden changes indicate that there was a problem on a communication level which would not have happened with Olcok.

Opinion Polls do not give a clear winner – Germany – Holland Crisis assisted Erdogan

Opinion polls show a clear picture of who will prevail. The truth is that until mid-March when the crisis broke out with Germany and the Netherlands the yes vote was at a 50% while other successive AKP polls showed the “yes” to be at 48% with the “no” vote prevailing. Following the German ban of demonstrations, Erdogan’s rhetoric in calling Merkel’s methods like those of the Nazis as well as the expulsion of the Turkish family policy Minister by the Dutch police, they seem to have brought results. Latest polls by the AKP show the “Yes” vote close to 52%.

“Ankara seems to be in favor of a “yes”. “No will prevail in Izmir. Istanbul is still 50/50 and Erdogan doesn’t want to lose there. For this reason during the last week before the referendum he will hold an event there everyday”, says Hurriyet political analyst Abdulkadir Selvi. Election experts state that votes of Turks abroad will bring an extra unit for the “yes” vote since following tension with European countries Turks abroad vote in favour of Erdogan’s constitutional reforms. Participation in the polls has increased by 38 % compared to other electoral campaigns. All Turks abroad can vote at consulates and embassies until the 9 April. Then they can exercise their right to vote in Turkey’s gateways. In Germany alone, 1.6 million Turks are eligible to vote for the referendum in Turkey.

Difficult Days await the Turks after the Referendum

Whatever the result of the referendum it is certain that in the economic sector measures will be taken that were not unveiled due to the ongoing election campaign. Annual inflation in Turkey exceeded 11% which causes skepticism as this result came despite the halt in growth in 2016 which did not exceed 3.5%. In the past, Turkey had shown growth rates which reached 10% while the inflation rate did not exceed 5% .Unemployment reached 12.7%. Unemployment in young people, has exceeded 24% and the number of unemployed exceeded 4 million, for the first time since 2010.

The sector which is in worse shape than all the others is the tourism sector. They first two months of 2017 foreign tourist arrivals decreased by 8.1% compared to the same period in 2016 which was the worst in a decade. Arrivals from Germany dropped by 30% and from the Netherlands by 23.4%.

In 2015 Turkey was welcoming 36.2 million tourists while in 2016 this figure dropped to 25.3 million. Tourism revenues dropped from 31.4 billion in 2015 to 21.2 billion. The Turkish government will immediately need to find resources to fill the gap of the10 billion lost in 2016.

Scenarios after the Referendum

If the yes vote prevails,Erdogan will theoretically remain the country’s president until 2019 with existing powers, he may then expand his powers. Binali Yildirim, in a short space of time will not be prime minister, since the position of prime minister will be banished following the constitutional reform.

Erdogan’s term will be extended until 2029 and under certain conditions by 2032. Analysts believe that immediately after the referendum there will be a reshuffle within the AKP where there are rumours about the presence of many people who had relationships with Gulen. The CHP leader who accuses the government of thousands of arrests, has stated that there are at least 120 MPs who used the encrypted communications system “By Lock” used by the Gulen members. In this respect, Erdogan is quite clear and does not want to have and lose ends.

In case the “no” vote prevails, even though the Turkish President will be hit he is not expected to withdraw. It is likely that he will lead the country to early elections. In this case polls show that neither the MHP nationalists nor the Kurdish HDP./IBNA