Turkish people should turn a deaf ear to the provocations aimed to escalate tensions among the ‘yes' and ‘no' camps as the referendum day approaches, and cast their votes on April 16 to have their say on the future of the country
Turkey has been going through curious times ahead of the constitutional reform referendum that is to be held on April 16. This amendment package that foresees a transformation in the system is far more different and more comprehensive than the previous amendments relating to Turkey's current 1982 Constitution that came into effect following the 1980 coup d'état. I have already written regarding the details of what the package proposes a couple of weeks ago; therefore, I do not want to repeat that. Briefly, this amendment is directly related to the governmental system. If the "yes" votes have the majority, Turkey is to switch to a model in which people can directly elect both Parliament members and a president, unlike the current system that only allows people to elect members to Parliament. This would entail the redefinition of the government's relations with Parliament and the judiciary.
However, tension in society is escalating as the referendum date approaches. With the proposed amendment, the last remnants of the old system, which preserves bureaucratic oligarchy, does politics through institutions and makes the judiciary cooperate with military tutelage, will be annihilated. All the impediments to politics are to vanish thanks to the amendment, while those who are elected will be able to gain more ground. This situation is building a great deal of fear among bureaucratic circles that assume the role of "gatekeepers of the regime."
The ones adding fuel to such fears also provoke tension in society with slogans such as "the regime will be toppled" and "a one-man regime is imminent." Society is to be dragged into turmoil if there is a successive targeting of different segments of society. Recently, the Müjdat Gezen Arts and Culture Center in Istanbul's Kadıköy district, founded by the renowned Turkish actor, was subjected to an arson attack as a means of provocation. The suspect was apprehended but it is not yet known whether there was another hand behind the attack. Gezen is an outspoken Kemalist who is strongly opposed to the Justice and Development Party (AK Party). Also, recently, a group of young gunmen opened fire on the house of Cem Küçük, who is a hawkish journalist known for his ardent support for the AK Party. The identities of the possible instigators of the incident are still under investigation. In the current atmosphere, it seems as if some secret groups are trying to set people of different opinions against each other.
In the midst of all these developments, the AK Party launched its official referendum campaign on Saturday. During the organization, all-encompassing messages were issued, positive promises were made for the future, and both Ottoman Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror and the Republic of Turkey's first President Mustafa Kemal Atatürk were referred to. All these points are significant in terms of indicating that the AK Party would maintain an integrative referendum campaign. The AK Party would not have had to propose this constitutional amendment if "regime gatekeepers" had not attempted to hinder the presidency of Abdullah Gül in 2007, had the Chief of the General Staff had not issued a memorandum against the candidacy of Gül, and the judiciary, which was in favor of a tutelage regime and was supported by the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), had not brought forward that at least 367 votes were required for the election of the president (this condition was not brought forward for the previous presidents). People voted "yes" with an overwhelming majority in favor of the amendment against the tutelage regime. Eventually, the model suggesting the election of the president by popular vote was adopted. And now, the referendum that is to be held in April aims to alter the system that currently favors the bureaucratic tutelage that blocks doing politics. What really matters is the creation and preservation of an atmosphere that ensures that people can freely cast ballots so that the popular will can determine Turkey's future direction. To achieve this, we need to tell the world our story truthfully.