The big news in Istanbul this week is that Turkish voters approved in a referendum a set of 26 constitutional reforms put forth by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) that fulfills some of the European Union’s human rights criteria, while also protecting the party from being closed by the judiciary (as nearly happened in 2008) and providing the executive branch with more power over judicial appointments. The referendum passed with 58% voting in favor.
The result is a big political win for Prime Minister Erdogan’s government and constitutes a vote of confidence for the government ahead of next summer’s parliamentary elections.
More broadly, the referendum is just another skirmish in the ongoing culture war between the conservative, religious elements of society represented by the AKP and the secular, Kemalist portion of society that is located primarily in Western Turkey and is led by the military, judiciary and the Republican People’s Party (CHP).
A few quick thoughts:
-The referendum has been huge news here in Istanbul. Many of Istanbul’s biggest streets have been covered in posters that say “Evet” (yes) or “Hayir” (no). Both sides had also set up booths and organized rallies throughout the city, though the pro-government “Evet” crowd clearly had a bigger presence – at least in the densely populated Taksim region where I am staying.
-In a stunning gaffe, opposition leader Kemal Kili