This Sunday, millions of Turks will vote to endorse or reject constitutional amendments passed in January by Turkey’s parliament. An opinion piece published by the German news agency Deutsche Welle explains that the “crucial” amendments “give all the power to one person, with almost no accountability,” eliminating what is left of democracy in Turkey. Virtually all observers agree that if the referendum passes, Turkey will be transformed into an authoritarian state.
But I (along with a few others) disagree. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan years ago arrogated all the powers that the constitutional changes would bestow on him. He is already lord of all he sees for as long as he wants, whether through democratic means or by fixing election results. If the referendum passes, it will merely prettify that reality.
Consider the nature of Mr. Erdoğan’s power. The obsequious prime minister, Binali Yıldırım, tirelessly advocates for the constitutional changes that will eliminate his own office, historically the most powerful in the country. Criticism of the all-mighty president can get even a child thrown into jail. The most tenuous connection to a (possibly staged) coup d’état attempt last July means losing one’s job—or worse. The state routinely jails journalists on the bogus charge of terrorism, and truly independent publications are shuttered.
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