Over lunch in Istanbul last week, a friend and I spoke about the upcoming Turkish referendum. “Many European Turks are likely to vote ‘yes,'” I cautioned my friend, whom I knew was planning to vote ‘no,’ or against the measure to grant President Recep Tayyip Erdogan unlimited powers. A “yes” vote, by contrast, would end the democratic parliamentary government established by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the republic, and in the eyes of most Western leaders, establish Erdogan as the Muslim world’s newest dictator.
My friend was visibly angered. “Then let them, with all their rights and freedoms, come here to live,” she retorted. “How dare they think that they can take these rights from us when we are the ones who have to live with the result?”
The outcome of Sunday’s referendum showed a Turkey split almost exactly in half, with 51 percent “yes” and just under 49 percent voting “no.”
Or did it?
It is too soon to make a full analysis of the vote results – which some rights groups have already contested – but one thing was immediately made clear: the vast majority of Turks living throughout Europe voted in support of Erdogan’s rule, even as the majority of those living in major Turkish cities – Izmir, Ankara and Istanbul – voted against it. If only the votes of Turks living in the country had been counted, would the results have been the same? Or would they show that Turkey’s residents support a secular, Western democracy while Europe’s Turks do not?
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