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A Turkey Divided by Erdogan Will Become Prey for the Country’s Enemies
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What critics claim is the openly fraudulent Turkish referendum ends parliamentary democracy in the country and gives President Recep Tayyip Erdogan dictatorial powers. The most unexpected aspect of the poll on Sunday was not the declared outcome, but that the ruling AKP (Justice and Development Party) allegedly found it necessary to fix the vote quite so blatantly.

The tightness of the final outcome of the referendum – 51.4 per cent “yes” to the constitutional changes and 48.59 per cent voting “no” – shows that the “no” voters would have been in the majority in any fairly conducted election.

Late on election day the head of the Electoral Board overseeing the process decided that votes not stamped as legally valid, numbering as many as 1.5 million, would be counted as valid, quite contrary to the practice in previous Turkish elections. An even cheekier ploy was to announce that cities with large Kurdish populations in south-east Turkey, where Erdogan’s security services have brutally crushed dissent, had swung in his direction.

These possible signs of fraud come in addition to the detention of journalists, MPs and activists and the takeover or closure of almost 150 media outlets. Some 145,000 people have been detained or arrested and a further 134,000 sacked for alleged links to the attempted military coup on 16 July 2016 which is the excuse for a purge in which anybody suspected of dissent is targeted as “a terrorist”. Erdogan already holds arbitrary power under a state of emergency under which parliament, the judiciary and other power centres will be brought under the full control of “an executive presidency”.

All of this will be familiar to anybody familiar with the toxic politics of one party or monarchical states anywhere in the world. Syrian elections to this day and Iraqi elections up to 2003 invariably returned overwhelming majorities in favour of their regimes and some found it a mystery why their rulers bothered to hold a vote at all. The answer was that the vanity of autocrats is bottomless and they want to see reports in their state-controlled media that they and their policies are the people’s choice. A subtler and more menacing message is to demonstrate their ability to force their people to perform an electoral kow-tow as a demonstration of raw power and to show the world who is in charge.

In the past foreign observers have often made the mistake of thinking that Turkey was similar to Middle East states. In reality, it was a much more modern state closer in its political history to the countries of southern Europe. There were military coups and military rule, but there were also real elections and powerful parliaments. There was a sophisticated and influential media and an intellectual energy in Turkey superior to most countries in Europe. It is this that is now being eliminated as Turkey becomes yet another member of the corrupt and tawdry club of Middle East autocracies.


The manipulation of the referendum results, claimed by the opposition, is in sharp contrast to the conduct of past Turkish elections which were generally fair. Parts of the process remained legitimate, as witness the majority of “no” votes Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir, the three biggest Turkish cities. This was an encouraging show of independence by voters and their representatives in the face of relentless pressure from the authorities to vote “yes”. No act of revenge is too petty or cruel: In one case an opposition MP, who denounced the “yes” voters, found that in retaliation his 88-year-old mother had been discharged from a hospital where she had been under treatment for two-and-a-half years.

Opponents of Erdogan are taking comfort in the thought that a “stolen” election will not legitimise his rule and can be challenged in the courts. But people in the business of establishing authoritarian rule and taking over the judiciary are not going to be deterred by such quibbles. In addition, the leaders of opposition political parties are incompetent, rendered ineffective by state persecution or, as in the case of the pro-Kurdish HDP, in jail awaiting long sentences.

The narrowness and dubious nature of Erdogan’s electoral “success” is unlikely to make him more conciliatory and, going by his actions after failing to get the majority he wanted in a general election in 2015, he will become even more aggressive in stamping out opposition. He is already proposing to bring back the death penalty which scarcely argues any appetite for compromise on his part. Resistance to his rule, deprived of any effective legitimate vehicle for protest through parliamentary politics, may become more violent, but he can use this to demonise all dissent as “terrorism”.

Yet it will be difficult for Erdogan to stabilise his country because he has previously specialised in provoking crises, such as the Kurdish insurgency since 2015 or Turkey’s role in the war in Syria, which supposedly necessitate a strong leader such as himself.

Authoritarian rulers often get away with such justifications for their monopoly of power, particularly if they have full control of the media in their own country. They can deal with domestic opponents by unleashing the security arm of the state against them. The real danger to their rule is when their foreign and domestic enemies combine against them.

Erdogan tried to whip up Turkish nationalist feeling during the election campaign, by carefully-staged theatrical rows with the Netherlands and Germany. But Turkey is surrounded by many actual or potential enemies – Syrian, Kurdish, Iranian, Russian – who see how easy it will be to exploit and exacerbate the country’s hatreds and deep divisions.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Erdogan, Turkey 
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  1. Avery says:

    {A Turkey Divided by Erdogan Will Become Prey for the Country’s Enemies}

    From your mouth to God’s ears.

    The Genocidal UygurTürkoğlar nomad savages are an alien presence in Asia Minor.

    The blood of at least ~4 million Christians of Asia Minor (1915-1923) is the hands of the savage UygurTürkoğlar nomads. God knows how many Christians the IslamoFascist savages have massacred since ~1,000AD. The nomad savages have been massacring Christians since ~1,000 A.D. Theft, arson, gang-rape (…..of children male and female), massacres, Genocide…F___ the InvadoNomad UygurTürkoğlar Savages.

    • Replies: @Singh
  2. “The real danger to their rule is when their foreign and domestic enemies combine against them.”

    No, the real danger is the loss of popular support. Foreign and domestic enemies always tend to combine.

    • Replies: @Uebersetzer
  3. Representative Democracy in a Parliamentary System with multiple competitive parties and media lightly regulated and independent of the state? Yeah, that’s exactly what Turkey needs at this stage of its development. Not.

  4. Singh says: • Website

    & christian were murdering pagans a millenia before

    • Replies: @Avery
    , @Anonymous
  5. bjondo says:

    You could be right but I don’t see any country, people being an enemy to Turkey except the Kurds and Israel/America (enemies to all others with Israel also an enemy to US).

    Syria could care less about Turkey if left alone.

    Iran isn’t going to invade Turkey.

    Neither Russia.


    Interesting comment from an Israeli newspaper. The more reflective sort of AKP supporter seems to worry that about half the nation is not on board.
    I was expecting more like 60% Yes, perhaps more, as a result of genuine support, intimidation and the “losing” of No ballots and Yes supporters voting early and often.
    There was, however, a lot of messing with the ballot in November 2015 as well and Cockburn is a little naive about past Turkish elections being fair.

  7. @Mao Cheng Ji

    Clearly a lot of Turks think a dictator does not hit the spot, and certainly the smarter, less pietistic and less easily intimidated inhabitants of Turkey voted No.

    • Replies: @Mao Cheng Ji
  8. The big danger of getting overthrown for Erdogan emanates ultimately from the USA, and despite purges I don’t think he is safe from another coup attempt. In fact the referendum may have increased the danger – it turned out not to be the Erdogan show of strength it was expected to be.
    Erdogan and co. seem to have the same mentality as some Unz commentators, and he probably thinks restoring ties with Israel will stop the Elders Of Zion congregating in Prague graveyards with a view to plotting his overthrow. (If that sounds exaggerated, in 2013 one of his deputy prime ministers blamed Gezi unrest on “international Jewry”. Whether he believed it or whether it was a pitch to pious AKP hicks in the sticks who do think like that is a moot point.)

  9. According to Wikipedia, it was about 80% No among Turkish citizens resident in the United Kingdom. I don’t know the confessional breakdown, but a lot of “Turkish” expatriates in London are from Alevi backgrounds and Kurds.

  10. Avery says:

    Which peoples were your ancestors murdering millenia before, homes?
    And do you know what the difference is between murder, massacre, war crimes, etc…and Genocide?

  11. @Uebersetzer

    The referendum wasn’t for ‘dictatorship’, but for a strong presidential political system, a-la the US of A. And the opposite is not ‘democracy’, but a weak secularist rule operating under military control.

    • Replies: @Uebersetzer
    , @Anonymous
  12. @Mao Cheng Ji

    Oh dear. Still, your unbroken track record of not criticising Erdogan at all continues. No matter what he and his followers get up to.
    The problem is that Erdogan and co. have frequently expressed intense hatred for anything foreign, including the USA (hence the manufactured spat with Germany and especially Holland), and although some of his defenders have claimed it is a parallel with the USA’s presidential system, the fact is that US presidents have far more checks and balances on their power than Erdogan has had, even before the referendum. Of course Erdogan doesn’t say “I want to be dictator of Turkey”. It is merely that de facto, this is how he is behaving. Dictators with personality defects have people arrested simply for tweets ridiculing them, not “strong presidents”. During the campaign he actually said that voting No was tantamount to supporting terrorism, and though he backtracked a little on this in the last few days, his underlings kept up this theme. He got an imam crony of his to claim that voting Yes was what God would want, so presumably voting No is what only Satan’s followers would do. Add in his followers physically attacking people supporting No during the campaign and on polling day, sometimes even in European countries like Belgium, add in chicanery with ballots, including counts conducted without any scrutiny allowed, add in the closure of critical media outlets, and this is something more than a “strong presidential system”.
    Still, on an earlier thread you said you have no problem with authoritarianism, so I am sure none of the above bothers you. Although even Erdogan sycophants are among those in jail because for this particular “strong president”, even sycophancy is no proof they are not in some way a threat.


    This American is something of a hate figure to Erdogan supporters but it is hard to fault what he actually says in the article.
    Incidentally, a Turkish helicopter carrying a judge and police went down today in Tunceli (Dersim). Although the state is saying it was the weather, guerrillas operate in Tunceli and it may be that they shot it down.


    AKP supporters in Izmir attacking No supporters protesting against the “dubious” result. No was definitely ahead in Izmir, but Erdogan fascists know the police will turn a blind eye to what they do. In fact earlier police had also attacked protesters there.


    CHP leader Kilicdaroglu asserted in his parliamentary group meeting today (traditionally these take place on Tuesday in Turkey) that No was in fact over 50%.


    Turkish report on German media starting to attack Turks in Germany: “They enjoy democracy themselves but vote for a despot” according to Bild, while the Suddeutsche Zeitung says “Erdogan’s victory splits Turkey in two”.

    An older item, in fact from February, but illustrative of how people think they have to crawl to the AKP in an effort to hang on to their jobs.


    AKP member of parliament for Mardin says the alliance with the MHP for the referendum was a failure and it would have been better to cultivate the Kurds.
    Note by me: it is striking how few of the MHP supporters seem to have followed their leader in voting Yes, and the MHP is in deep crisis with an avalanche of resignations from the party. Yet just about everything the AKP has done since July 2015 has been aimed at cultivating the MHP and suchlike.
    Ripped-up No votes found on a building site in Suruc, on the Syrian border.

  18. Anonymous [AKA "Shanghai Jack"] says:
    @Mao Cheng Ji

    As I understand it, Erdogan’s new constitution gives him control of the judiciary, unlike in the USA.

    • Replies: @Mao Cheng Ji
  19. Hundreds of people in Adana have overcome a police barricade and started a protest march. The state of emergency has been extended in Turkey.

  20. @Anonymous

    Reading this, it appears to be all the usual stuff:
    “Article 9 The judiciary is required to act on condition of impartiality.”
    “Article 125 The acts of the President are now subject to judicial review.”

    Speaking shortly after the proposals were released, the HDP’s spokesperson Ayhan Bilgen criticised the proposed changes for being anti-democratic and against the principle of judicial independence. Citing the proposed creation of ‘executive orders’ that can be decreed by the President at will without parliamentary scrutiny, Bilgen criticised the nature of the changes, calling them poorly written and an attempt to cover up constitutional violations that had taken place under the current constitution.

    But the US has “executive orders” too, and survives.

    • Replies: @Uebersetzer

    From Kurdish newspaper published in Germany. “The Turkish type of fascism”, by Ahmet Kahraman.
    It alludes to the overthrow of Menderes on May 27, 1960.
    “Before May 27, the feeble voices opposing the Menderes government gave way to shouts. Today’s situation is even worse.”

    And the PKK says it killed four Turkish soldiers in Hakkari on the 16th of April. The war grinds on.

  22. @Mao Cheng Ji

    Although the worst war in US history was partly about the rights of states as opposed to those of the federal executive.


    Cem Kucuk, the Erdogan fan who said to “prepare for war”, has backtracked, according to the Communist Party site. He said “Kurds, Alevis, non-Muslims are our brothers”. The site asks why he has reversed himself. (Probably someone in Erdogan’s office told him to cool it.)

  24. My prediction is that the AKP will throw the MHP overboard. The latter party did not perform up to expectations and few of its supporters voted Yes (Had everyone who supported the AKP and MHP voted Yes, it would have been 62% for Yes, and my feeling before the referendum that it would have been about 60% Yes was based on that assumption, give or take some slippage.)
    I wouldn’t put it past Erdogan to try and make some awkward overtures to the Kurdish nationalists, although transitioning from destroying their towns, killing their people and imprisoning their politicians to “let’s be friends” is going to be awkward. It might even earn him a bullet from some outraged Turkish nationalist. Mao Cheng Ji thinks the coup attempt is the thing that bothered him the most. Actually the way the Russian ambassador got shot by a cop who had imbibed Islamism only too well and was angered by the Russian rapprochment probably keeps Erdogan up at night more. Because that kind of person makes U-turns difficult to execute without risk of falling victim to violence. Erdogan has no real principles, but some of the fascist foot soldiers actually believe the bullshit. And they can be very dangerous if crossed.

  25. A Turkish soldier in Agri Province, near Iran and Armenia, has been killed by a roadside bomb. The referendum has done nothing to resolve this kind of thing and the state of emergency does not prevent it. AKP referendum posters suggested that if Yes won, the state of emergency would end. In fact it has been extended by another three months.

  26. Anon • Disclaimer says:

    • Replies: @Talha
  27. Street clashes in Mersin between local inhabitants (possibly of an MHP disposition) and Syrian refugees erupted yesterday evening. Mersin was very much No, despite reports of AKP activists trying to bribe people to vote Yes, and it may be that the backwash from the Syrian conflict undermined local willingness to vote Yes. Poor and often fascist-inclined Turks compete with Syrian refugees for low-wage jobs, and this is not the first time tensions have erupted.


    Of course, only in a regime where the Big Cheese is a dictator with a personality defect would the courts be dealing with this kind of garbage in the first place.

    • Replies: @Talha

    In Mao Cheng Ji-type regimes, of course the votes against end up on lonely building sites rather than in ballot boxes.
    Reminds me of a cartoon by the German Kurt Halbritter about life in Nazi Germany. A plebiscite is under way, an old man is trying to vote No in a polling station at the separate box provided for No. The burly SA man standing nearby says, hands on hips in a threatening manner, “Well, grandpa, can I help you with something?” Oh wait, that’s Godwin’s Law…


    And this is the cartoon by Halbritter, who died in 1978. Note that even the poster on the side of the voting booth points to a Yes vote.
    After the collapse of Nazi Germany, bundles of No votes connected to plebiscites were occasionally found in Gestapo files, sometimes with the note that one of them had been cast by so-and-so and further action would be necessary.


    Another Halbritter cartoon. SS guard in a concentration camp tells inmates, “You wouldn’t be eating this soup if there was no Fuehrer!” Double meaning – he probably means it is really generous of Hitler to feed them, but they are in a concentration camp in the first place because there is a Fuehrer.
    Turkey’s jails are full to bursting because there is an Erdogan…


    Note the xenophobia and paranoia. People could not have voted No for genuinely Turkish reasons – it must be because of foreign agents, who presumably can set half of Turkey’s voting public in motion. Adnan Menderes and his friends were prone to similar bullshit before the army overthrew him in 1960. It would be ironic if Erdogan restored the death penalty in Turkey and then became one of its victims…


    This was before the referendum. Note that this implies Erdogan controls the judiciary enough to keep someone in detention, even without the enhanced powers the referendum grants.

  34. Ain’t it grand, NATO’s got his back.

  35. “Note the xenophobia and paranoia. People could not have voted No for genuinely Turkish reasons”

    Or here in our completely sane United States, “the Russians finagled the voting machines” to make it look like Americans actually voted for Trump.

  36. Talha says:

    Thanks for that concise video – some changes don’t seem too bad, some seem over the top.

    I personally think changing something as important as the constitution of a country probably shouldn’t be done without a 2/3 mandate. But that’s just me.


    • Replies: @Anonymous
  37. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    What happened to our Islamic traditionalist?

    But, seriously, constitutions are always in flux; this seems mostly like just a readjustment of the written law to the actual practice and current balance-of-power. Perhaps the 1920s was not the best of times to suddenly become a Western country.

  38. Talha says:

    Hola Senor,

    What happened to our Islamic traditionalist?

    Why is asking for a 2/3 majority to resolve a community matter in contradiction with any traditional Islamic position? They are voting on what they feel are the proper mechanics/framework of government – not whether praying 5 times a day is correct or not.

    2/3 would merely make the result more substantial – wouldn’t you agree?

    constitutions are always in flux

    And how – Volstead Act, anyone?

    Perhaps the 1920s was not the best of times to suddenly become a Western country.

    The nation-state model* and its form of representative government is foreign to these places – adjustment should be expected.


    *I personally would love to see these post-colonial boundaries erased between Muslim nations other than as administrative guides – but the Ummah is not (and may not ever be) ready for such a thing.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  39. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    A joke; most of Muslim history consists of new constitutions being imposed by very small minorities. Most of world history too, but Islam is famous for it and it seemed good enough for a laugh.

    • Replies: @Anon
  40. @Talha

    Probably, although comparisons between Putin and Erdogan are almost a cliche in the MSM.
    Years ago a “Gay Ataturk” Youtube account, probably posted by a PKK supporter, caused the Turkish state to temporarily deny access to Youtube.

  41. Anonymous [AKA "John Kassabian"] says:

    I bet those Kurds in Diyarbakır, the 100 or so burnt in their basements were very scared of those Pagan killing Christians… The Turks Killed all the Armenians, now they will try to do the same to the Kurds.
    The fact that Pagans are killed today by Fundamentalist Muslims today makes your point moot, as I do not recall my Christian friends talking about going out and killing pagans. However I must wonder how many Turks talk about solving their Kurdish problem. Please stop massacring people. Everyone is tired of it. We only put up with it due to your strategic location.

  42. Anon • Disclaimer says:

    Also, there’s a reason Machiavelli drew the distinction he did between the Frankish and Turkish models of government. The nation-state model is an Enlightenment graft upon the former; and was actually in some cases an attempt to convert it into the latter. Hence the Carlist battle-cry: “Dios, Patria, Fueros, y Rey!” One problem with adopting Western liberal institutions is that these are engaged in a Hegelian process of dialectic self-development, something not necessarily apparent to colonized peoples who experience them as impositions from without, many of which, being as they are after all imperial and arbitrary, are rather illiberal than otherwise, or at least appear so.

  43. El Dato says:

    I wonder whether in 10. 15 years or so, Turkey will decide to finally finish taking Vienna.

    Will they then be allowed to stay in NATO?

    Maybe European politicians will discuss whether Turkey’s ambitions to accede to the EU are starting to be seriously imperiled?

    • Replies: @Talha
  44. Talha says:
    @El Dato

    Bro, they just had their backsides handed to them after a failed attempt at establishing a relatively small security cordon in a neighboring part of Syria (which is in the midst of a civil war) where they could rely on Turkmen allies.

    Are you seriously thinking they will march on Vienna and hold a supply line together through hostile Southern Europe – I mean are we talking a plot for a comic book or a movie?


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