I realize everyone is obsessed with North Kora right now, but the Turkish referendum that is set for April 16 may turn out to be even more significant.
Erdogan’s AKP and the MHP nationalists have proposed a set of amendments to the Turkish constitution that would remove the office of the Prime Minister, annul a ban on the President retaining membership of his political party, and vastly increase the Presidency’s power over the legislature and the judiciary. If these proposals are confirmed by the electorate, Turkey becomes an executive Presidency.
In the past week, “Yes” has assumed a lead, though that shouldn’t be weighed too heavily since these polls have been fluctuating widely. However, PredictIt currently gives a 68% chance of “Yes.” This tallies exactly with the odds given by major betting sites.
One curious aspect of Turkish politics is that the AKP is far friendlier towards Turkey’s 3 million Syrian immigrants than the Kemalist CHP, and Erdogan has even gone so far as to moot giving them citizenship – a suggestion that was not well received by most Turks. Another interesting thing I noted is that whereas the constitutional amendment is supported by the MHP leadership, some 65% of its rank and file are prepared to vote “No.”
This might hint at some very curious parallels with Russia. There, for instance, Zhirinovsky’s LDPR slavishly supports the Kremlin, and by extension its Eurasianist (read: Greater Turkestanization) project, even though its base are nationalist xenophobes who refuse to rent out their apartments to people from Central Asia and the Caucasus. I wonder if there is a similar dynamic at play in Turkey, with nationalist MHP voters being mostly opposed to Erdogan’s Ottomanist (read: Islamist-Arabization) project, but nonetheless feeling dutybound to support the Leader out of their authoritarian and neo-imperialist instincts, and hatred of the liberal elites in the cosmopolitan areas.
Anyhow, I suspect that “Yes” will be bad for Syria, and by extension, Russia’s goals in Syria (assuming there’s no convoluted 3D chess involved). Erdogan tilts towards the invade/invite end of the spectrum, and with his power becoming absolute in Turkey, he will have space to resume the “invade” part in Syria with greater vigor. Considering the sharp reversal in US-Russian relations over Syria in the past ten days, and Erdogan’s own unlimited propensity for treachery, I have dark forebodings that Putin might soon come to regret helping him survive the 2016 coup attempt.