Today, citizens of Turkey are called to vote in a referendum on whether to change the type of regime in Turkey or not. This is an interesting question for any society. Debates on, and if...
Today, citizens of Turkey are called to vote in a referendum on whether to change the type of regime in Turkey or not.
This is an interesting question for any society. Debates on, and if necessary reforms of, a society's constitutional order are important at a time when many people around Europe chose not participate in joint decision-making, when traditional institutions and political parties find it increasingly challenging to reach out and to represent, and when common projects for a way forward are alarmingly absent. We need to discuss, to debate and to decide on what kind of societies we want to live in.
Two options are offered to voters in Turkey. The status quo, which is a very centralised system where power has, as we have been able to witness, been concentrated in the hands of few. Not only has this led to arbitrary decisions that in no way benefit the citizens who are supposed to be represented, but it is also a system that has proven incapable of accommodating political pluralism. The rise of the left-wing, minority rights People's Democratic Party HDP in recent years and elections has been met with outright war and political persecution of party officials. A system where political disagreements lead to bloodshed is in no way legitimate nor sustainable. No historical precedent indicates that this would be the case.
The other option is a new regime, installed by 18 constitutional amendments. The position of Prime Minister would be abolished and the President would appoint, lead and remove the Cabinet and its members. The President would be able to be Head of State, Head of Cabinet, and party leader all at the same time. The President would rule by decrees. The monitoring role of the Parliament would be abolished. The independence of the judiciary would be further eroded as the President would gain significant appointing competence. To sum up - a dictatorship elected by simple majority in a two-round presidential race.
This is not what will make Turkey stable.
The Turkish government has in recent years become increasingly authoritarian. Basic human rights, such as freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association, and the right to a fair trial, are not respected. Critical voices are silenced by force. According to Platform 24, an NGO that advocates for independent journalism, 153 journalists are imprisoned in Turkey as of 15 April. The co-leaders of HDP, Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, as well as 8 other HDP Members of Parliament have been imprisoned since 4 November 2016 on trumped up charges.
A "yes" vote in the referendum will lead to more fear, more repression, and more violence.
The current system does not lead to a path of peace either, at least not with the current President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Shall the "no" vote win, there will be a lot of work to steer Turkey towards participatory democracy and political pluralism. However, it is still one of the last barriers, mainly in terms of separation of powers, against dictatorship.
We, the Federation of Young European Greens, are committed to working with civil society and young people around Turkey to build our common future. By being present in Turkey for many years, we have created strong bonds of solidarity across Europe with young people in Turkey. We have seen society change, not necessarily for the better, and we have seen the bravery of Young Greens and other activists in struggling for a participatory, equal and sustainable Turkey.
Today, we call for the following:
1. A vote for "no" in the referendum, as an opportunity for a progressive new start together, within Turkey and internationally.
2. The peaceful and unobstructed organisation of the referendum in all parts of Turkey, including monitoring access to all phases of the vote by independent election observers.
3. A strong commitment of Turkey's international partners, in particular the European Union and its member states, to support democratic aspirations within Turkey, including the rights of minorities, the operating possibilities of civil society organisations, a free press and independent journalism, political pluralism, and peacebuilding efforts.