Turkey’s recent referendum gave President Recep Tayyip Erdogan immense new powers – he will rule uncontested, appointing senior officials, judges, and members of his cabinet with almost no oversight by weakened parliament. The office of prime minister will not exist anymore and the presidential elections will take place at the same time as the parliamentary ones. Moreover, president’s tenure will be limited to two terms unless parliament cuts short the second, which will allow Mr. Erdogan to stay in office until 2029 and possibly up to 2034.
Even before all the votes had been tallied, Mr. Erdogan claimed victory, declaring that “my nation stood upright and undivided.” The reaction of European leaders to the referendum has been rather lukewarm and guarded, although some senior EU officials said that the country had essentially ended its 10-year old attempt to join the bloc. For example, the Austrian chancellor, Christian Kern, commented that “with what happened yesterday (16 April), [Turkey’s] membership prospects are buried, in practical terms,” adding that “we are entering a new era”.
Berlin, Paris and Brussels have all voiced serious concerns about the implications of the referendum. Moreover, Germany said that if Turkey were to bring back the death penalty as Mr. Erdogan promised, it would mean the resolute “end of the European dream”. Germany’s foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel also said that “any decision [about joining the EU] will not be on the agenda anytime soon. At any rate, joining would not work right now.”
The president of the European commission, Jean Claude–Juncker, moreover called for “the Turkish authorities to seek the broadest possible national consensus” when making the changes to the constitution, pointing out to the tightness of the poll, in which 51.4% of the voters supported the expansion of the powers, while 48.6% of them were against. “The narrow result of the vote shows how deeply split the Turkish society is,” Angela Merkel concluded.