BY: Yasin Aktay*
Turkey has gone through with a very important referendum which was a milestone in the history of democracy. While I was writing this article, the result had not yet been concluded and the atmosphere was very competitive. Towards the end of the count, the result came out to about 52 percent for the “yes” vote, meaning that the Turkish nation has approved of a change in its system. This result will give us a lot of data to evaluate, from the language of the campaigns to the positive and negative contributions that the sides had on the campaigns. A lot can be said about sociological development and its change and course when the data is evaluated, but the most important thing to say is; the decision is the decision of the people, the decision was made through democracy and democracy is the winner in Turkey. It should be understood that both sides put their theses and claims forward in a democratic environment and the “yes” front was the winner. This result should ensure that no one has any worries or anxieties as Turkish democracy has won and is now stronger.
We went through a period in which the whole world focused on the referendum in Turkey. Many countries broadcasted television programs on Turkey, some countries requested “no” votes in Turkish via their newspapers and some European politicians propagated against “yes” as if they were Turkish citizens. Many articles and analysis were published that overlooked Turkey’s realities. It is interesting that a certain group of media outlets actually serviced these.
I mentioned in my previous article that Henri Barkey, the director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Middle East Program, had argued in his article published in the Wall Street Journal that Turkey would no longer be the same Turkey after the referendum. The name Henri Barkey isn’t very foreign to us. We remember him from his visit to Istanbul for a meeting before July 15. Barkey knows and is interested in Turkey to such an extent that he named his daughter Ankara and he is also known for his close ties to Graham Fuller. According to the writer, if the referendum resulted in a “no,” Turkey would be destabilized and uncertainty would take over. If the result was “yes” the writer argued that Turkey would start to be ruled by a populist authoritarian system. In his article in which he compared Turkey to Venezuela, Barkey argued that European/western leaders would want Erdogan to win as they want a strong and stable Turkey. Besides reversing some realities in his article, Barkey shows that he isn’t aware of Turkey’s political and social structures. Barkey’s approach is rather orientalist. He obviously doesn’t realize that, whether the result was yes or no, Turkey’s experience in democracy and its foundations will not allow chaos. Or he is clearly trying to disinform as he is the spokesperson for a certain policy. Soner Cagaptay wrote an article for the same paper arguing that President Erdogan divided the country into two camps in order to win the referendum, that society became disorganized and that this referendum would only increase the unsolvability of the country being divided into two camps. Cagaptay should ask if there wasn’t two sides during Brexit. I have evaluated these controlled publications before. We should probably take a look from another angle: for the first time in Turkey’s history an election has been followed so closely by the world, the choices of the society were a point of curiosity and there were attempts to effect and shape these choices. This can be considered as the world implicitly accepting Turkey’s democratic power and the Turkish public’s commitment to democracy, regardless of the moral and intellectual problems that that would carry.
Afterall, Turkish democracy became stronger with the April 16 referendum and it successfully passed another test. We should now turn this sail around so that it gives Turkey a boost; we should focus on the upcoming periods and the political ones too. Everyone who voted in this election, whether yes or no, has added to the value of our democracy and is an equally valuable citizen.
Last week in one of my articles I mentioned that there would be a reasonable increase in the Kurdish votes as a result of the President and Prime Minister’s meetings and that this would open a new page in the Kurdish issue. This turned out to be the case. It seems that the increase in votes in East and Southeastern Turkey, despite the decrease in Western Anatolia votes have had an effect on “yes” being the result coming out of the ballot box. We will have plenty of time to talk about it all.
*Yasin Aktay is the vice chair of the ruling Justice and Development (AK Party) in Turkey.
(Published in Yeni Şafak Turkısh newspaper on April 17, 2017)