09/10/2010, 00.00
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Turkey faces crucial referendum on democratic future

by NAT da Polis
Sunday's vote for a package of constitutional reforms, which, if approved, could remove what remains of the state desired by Kemal Ataturk. The campaign has been transformed into a vote for or against the government. Polls give a narrow victory to the Yes camp. The possible consequences.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) - Perhaps the most crucial moment in the modern history of the Turkish Republic has arrived. One that will determine, in next Sunday’s referendum, if the country on the borders of Europe has really entered the post-kemalist period, a so-called neo- ottomanisim, as the current foreign minister Davutoglu, writes in his voluminous text "in depth strategy."

And given the importance of the outcome at stake, the heads of Turkish political parties have travelled far and wide across the country with daily appearances on all television channels.

The debate was marked by a language of base populism. As noted by a careful observer of Turkish affairs Frago K, there was, according to her, the feeling that this was a referendum campaign for or against the ruling AKP party. One therefore which spoke little about the package of constitutional reforms. A package of 26 proposals that the Supreme Court has agreed to put to the popular vote, after the opposition party CHP appeal, which had pinned its last hopes in the eventual Court rejection.

Among the most important changes: the right to privacy, the right to strike, the court of citizen’s rights, individual petitioning of the Constitutional Court, the possibility for the trial of military leaders (currently impossible) and clearly a change in the composition of the Supreme Council of the Judiciary (which will increase from the current seven members to 22) and the Supreme Court, which will increase from the current 11 to 17, with a term of 12 years, rather than life), thus truly doing away with the last bastion of the Kemalist apparatus.

The arguments brought forward by the four parties represented in parliament rarely focused on the substance of the proposed amendments. Erdogan's party, the AKP has focused on the coup of September 12, 1980, which gave birth to the current Constitution describing it as detrimental, as are all military coups, thus inviting to the country to vote for democratization. Instead the two opposition parties' CHP and MHP found the coup just and accuse Erdogan's party of seeking to destroy the secular state, in league with the PKK Kurds, thereby inviting the population to vote No.

The BDP Kurdish party, despite statement from its own leaders - urging the Kurdish population to vote in favour – has argued for an abstention, perhaps because it was influenced by the Mayor of Diarbakir (the largest Kurdish community) Baidemir Osman, close to Ocalan, who declared his resignation in case of victory of the Yes

The non-Muslim minorities, Armenian Christian and Jewish, because of improvements in their situations and relying on the goodwill of the government to continue along the same road, have spoken for the Yes camp.

According to the director of the A & G agency Adil Giur, who predicted the results of recent elections in Turkey, polls are pointing to a 51% victory for the Yes campaign, but adds that depends on turnout and that the Kurdish vote will be very important Another agency, Genaro, provides for a 53% victory for the Yes and with a turnout of 90%.

Asked what will happen the next day, Cengiz Cantar of Radikal newspaper (representing Turkish intelligentsia) answered that our life will never be the same whoever wins. According to Cantor, if there no prevails hen there will be a tense period until the next election (2011) and the AKP will be accused of having lost its legitimacy with the risk that some reactionary forces will take courage, with the support of both opposition parties CHP and MHP, without this implying that Erdogan will be defeated in the next elections. In the event of a Yes victory, according to Cantor, Erdogan must demonstrate his sincerity in wanting reform.

So according to Frago K the vote on Sunday will see if Turkey can break with its past and whether the reforms towards a truly European democracy will continue.
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