Perspectives on Turkey’s 2017 Presidential Referendum
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CitationCelep, Ö. (2017). Perspectives on Turkey’s 2017 Presidential Referendum. Middle East Review of International Affairs (Online), 21(1), 67-75.
Until the 1980s, Turkey’s long-standing parliamentarism had precluded debates about presidentialism. In the following decade, the two right-wing presidents, Ozal and Demirel, briefly promoted presidentialism but failed to initiate a system change. However, the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) 2002 electoral victory ushered in a new period; after over a decade of political dominance, the AKP, under President Erdogan, began pushing for radical and controversial constitutional changes. The April 16, 2017, constitutional referendum, proposed a new “partisan presidential system” with almost no separation of powers and without any checks and balances. The Nationalist Action Party (MHP), with a split and polarized base, initially objected to systemic constitutional changes, but later not only expressed support for them but became the key actor for the referendum. The entire process of the referendum seems to have produced a new cross-cutting cleavage in Turkish politics.