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What Is at Stake in the Turkish Constitutional Referendum?

Bill Kissane
Publication date: 
Mon, 13 Mar 2017

In this policy brief, Dr Bill Kissane of LSE examines the Turkish referendum on the most ambitious changes to the Turkish constitution yet seen, which was called in the aftermath of the failed military coup of 2016.

If passed, the referendum will allow President Erdoğan to dissolve the parliament and to declare a state of emergency.

The policy brief outlines the passing of a consensual approach to constitution-making, and views the changes as part of a process of partisan entrenchment, under which the dominant AK party has gradually gained control of state institutions in Turkey.

Dr Kissane argues that the polarized and violent conditions that now exist in the country may threaten the prospect of a free and fair vote on the changes.

The policy brief places the dynamics of the complex constitutional amendment in the context of a polarized party system and assesses:

  • The failure of the consensus approach in Turkey.
  • President Erdoğan’s desire to codify the executive power he already exercises.
  • The divergent attitudes of the political parties to the current proposals.
  • Fears that the changes will create a presidential system without effective checks and balances.
  • The origins of what may be a system of pure majoritarian rule in Turkey.