Turkey votes

Published 10.04.2017 22:17
Updated 10.04.2017 22:19

Turkey votes this Sunday in a referendum that will amend the military constitution in place since 1980. With polls showing a photo-finish in the making, both the "yes" and "no" sides are spending their final days campaigning.

The referendum hinges upon a shift in Turkish politics that would move Turkey away from a pseudo-parliamentary system to a presidential system, like the U.S. and French system.

The main difference between the two systems is that in a parliamentary system, it is technically possible for a leader of a party that wins only 10 percent of the vote to be prime minister. This type of tyranny of the minority needs to end.

The United States has never had an "early election" in its history.

That's nearly 250 years. Presidential elections have been held like clockwork even during major wars, following assassinations and seismic political shifts.

Despite arguments against the "Electoral College" system in the United States, only once has the system failed in giving the presidency to the candidate who won a majority of the popular vote. That's one out of 58 elections.

There have been three other instances in which a president was elected with fewer popular votes than the opposing candidate, but those were by the design of the U.S. constitution.

The Turkish referendum, if accepted, would force a run-off if no presidential candidate garnered an absolute majority of the votes cast. In other words, more than 50 percent of Turkish voters will always decide who the next president will be, no exceptions.

In the past, multiple parties split the vote, which meant that five parties that won only 10 percent each, could control the government while the winner of the election, who received 50 percent, for example, would be denied the chance to govern.

This makes little sense to me. I do not, however, question the motives or reasoning of the opposition.

If I was an opposition lawmaker I too would oppose the proposed system. The Turkish electorate has continually given every election to the right-leaning AK Party, or Justice and Development Party, founded by current President Tayyip Erdoğan in the last 15 years.

He personally won 52 percent of the vote in the country's first popular election for president and his party won nearly 60 percent of the vote in the last election.

The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) has never won a majority of votes in the history of the Republic, because the political landscape of Turkey has always consisted mainly of liberal central-right parties with a minority being held by conservative left-leaning parties.

If you are confused, Turkish liberals are generally in right leaning parties whereas the status quo is favored by the "leftist" parties.

With early elections being called often and a partial spoils system in place in the government bureaucracy, democratic institutions have historically been slow to develop.

Only through predictable democratic elections will these institutions have any chance at growing. The problem for the left leaning parties is that the Turkish people do not want them to govern. They literally, never have.

However, they have been successful in taking over leadership of the country when the right leaning parties have split each other's vote or following military coups.

This will now be a long-shot and the left is keenly aware of this.

The 20 percent of voters who consistently vote for the CHP have held on to dreams of ruling over the 80 percent of those who voted for someone else, but now those dreams will almost certainly be dashed.

Obviously, for this new system to be successful, reforms need to be made to insure respect for civil liberties. This can only be done with a truly independent judiciary.

Throughout Turkey's history, "judicial interviews" have been the gateway to filling courts with prosecutors and judges of choice to whoever is conducting the interviews. This system obviously needs to change.

Elections for district attorneys and judges are desperately needed.

The government should give up as much power as possible to the people, let the people decide. A jury system in criminal cases would also protect Turkey's courts from the appearance of impropriety.

There is much work that needs to be done for Turkey to be freed from the shackles of outdated systems of governing when the people were thought to be too dumb to decide for themselves.

To be clear, I believe all politicians everywhere have always been flawed, they are people after all. While there is never a "best" choice, there is clearly a better choice and I am sure Turkey will come to one on Sunday.

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