Turkey’s referendum result, which allowed President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to expand his powers, could lead to the further erosion of democracy and of the demonising of non-Muslims, a former opposition politician has warned.
In the referendum, held on 16 April, 51 per cent of voters approved proposals to abolish the office of Prime Minister and increase the president’s executive, legislative and judicial powers.
Dr. Aykan Erdemir, a member of Turkey’s main opposition party (the Republican People’s Party) who served in the Turkish Parliament from 2011 to 2015, said he feared that a victory for the President would mean “more of this reckless one-man rule”. He added: “We will see a further erosion of checks and balances, rule of law, due process.”
Dr. Erdemir, now a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, noted that Erdoğan, in his victory speech, accused the West of waging a “crusade” against his country, alluding to the ancient battle between Christianity and Islam and linking Turkey’s Christians with outsiders, namely Westerners.
“If you are a member of Turkey’s Jewish or Christian communities, you will feel very threatened because … you have a President who continues to single you out and portrays you as kind of the fifth column, the traitors in Turkey. And this is basically paving the way, not only through crackdowns in courts, but for hate crimes,” Erdemir told the US-based Christian Broadcasting Network.
He cited the case of US pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been detained since October in a Turkish jail on undisclosed charges of involvement in a terrorist organisation. He said he feared Brunson’s case could be used by Erdoğan as a bartering tool. “Unfortunately Pastor Andrew Brunson is now a pawn, kind of a trump card in Erdoğan’s hand. There’s absolutely … no due process in that case,” he added.