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Published On: Mon, Apr 17th, 2017

Belgium has highest rate of pro-Erdogan “pro-constitutional reform” voters in Europe

nsnbc : Results from Sunday’s constitutional referendum on the introduction of an executive presidential system and other sweeping measures in Turkey show that Belgium is the European country where Turkey’s AKP, Erdogan, and the call for constitutional change had most supporters.

Belgium_Turkish Embassy_Apr 2017Results from the referendum show that nearly 75 percent of Turkish voters in Belgium voted “Yes” in Sunday’s referendum. Globally, only Lebanon had a higher rate of pro-constitutional change / Erdogan voters.

The high score in Belgium forms a stark contrast with Great Britain, where almost 80 percent of voters spoke out against more powers for Erdogan in a presidential system. Spain even had 87 percent no-voters. European countries showed completely different results. Germany had 63 percent voting in favor of the president, the Netherlands 70 percent.

The sweeping constitutional change was adopted by the narrowest of margins. It is noteworthy that the “Yes” with its narrow 1.32 percent margin, was “achieved” while hundreds of journalists were dismissed, major media organizations were closed or taken over by the government, and while the government even actively intimidated Turkish and other journalists abroad. Turkey is likely to experience a period of increased internal instability and additional semi-totalitarian crackdowns on members of the opposition, on Kurdish communities, on NGOs and on the press.

R. Tayyip Erdogan_referendum_Apr 16 2017_Ankara_TurkeyErdogan, the AKP and the opposition nationalist MHP who supported the constitutional change gathered a total of 831,043 “Yes” votes abroad, compared to 575,288 no-voters (according to incomplete figures). The final margin in the Turkish referendum was 25.15 million versus 23.77 million.

Turkey’s President R. Tayyip Erdogan declared victory in a congratulatory phone calls to Prime Minister and the leader of the ruling, Islamist, Justice and Development Party (AKP) Binali Yildiren, and the leader of the Turkish Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Devlet Bahceli. Unless the results are overturned, President Erdogan will have the dubious privilege to call himself “head of State” and may rule until 2028 – with the option to prolong his own or a chosen AKP successor’s rule by declaring yet another “state of emergency.”

MHP leader Bahceli welcomed the results saying the Turkish nation has approved the executive presidential system with of its “free will,” calling the vote a “great success.” Nauman Kurtelmus, AKP member and Deputy Prime Minister, tweeted “We are stronger now.” He also repeated a line from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that there are now more than just five strong countries; A reference to the five permanent UN Security Council members China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

Erdal Aksünger, the deputy leader of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) said the party would appeal 37 of the ballot boxes in terms of content. The leftist opposition Democratic people’s Party (HDP) tweeted “Whether the official announcement is Yes or No, we will object to 2/3 of ballots. Our data indicates a manipulation in the range of 3-4%.” Both the CHP and the leftist HDP which stands particularly strong in predominantly Kurdish areas announced their intentions to challenge the announced outcome of the vote. Both of them are referring to cases of systematic election fraud and irregularities.

Referendum during a state of emergency or constitutional coup d’état by the Islamist AKP with Nationalist MHP backing?

Last week four UN special rapporteurs, Philip Alston, special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, David Kaye, special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Maina Kiai, special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, and Koumbou Boly Barry, special rapporteur on the right to education, were citing a cohort of serious of concerns of mass rights violations under Turkey’s post-coup state of emergency and warned that a ‘Yes’ vote in the referendum on constitutional change would give the president unchecked power to impose disturbing measures on the country.

In a statement released last Tuesday the rapporteurs stressed that “Given the arbitrary and sweeping nature of the emergency decrees issued since July 2016, there is serious concern that such powers might be used in ways that exacerbate the existing major violations of economic, social and cultural right.”

The referendum under current conditions is especially disturbing because after the attempted coup of July 15, 2016, the Turkish government imposed a state of emergency, dismissed tens of thousands civil servants, carried out mass arrests, and shut down some 200 media outlets. Moreover, these mass arrests also resulted in the detention of opposition lawmakers who were stripped off their immunity and arrested under alleged and trumped up terrorism charges and charges as disturbing as “insulting the president”.

The AKP government in Ankara has justified its actions saying it is targeting alleged coup-plotters and terrorists. However, Ankara accuses the self-exiled cleric Fetullah Gülen and his network as coup plotters while the lawmakers who were detained primarily belong to the HDP, a party that stands particularly strong in predominantly Kurdish regions of the country.

The UN special rapporteurs stated that the constitutional amendments will “empower the President alone to declare future states of emergency and to determine the measures to be taken.”

The constitutional amendment and introduction of the presidential system will also result in fundamental changes to Turkey’s judiciary and render parliament as powerless as a debating club say critics. The constitutional amendment introduces a strong partisan, executive presidential system that will take over the authorities and functions of the prime minister and cabinet.

The presidency will also will have the authority to issue decrees in effect of law, to appoint vice presidents and cabinets who can be outside of the parliament and not elected, and to hold the title “head of the state.” Kenan Evren, Turkey’s former coup leader and seventh president, introduced this title of “Head of State” in Turkey for the first time with the provisional article of the 1982 Constitution. Unless the results are overturned, R. Tayyip Erdogan will now have the dubious privilege to use that title – and more importantly its functions – too.

The president will also be given the authority to annul parliament and declare an election, while they will also have the authority to declare a state of emergency, during which they will have the authority to issue decrees without any restriction of jurisdiction. The “reform” will render Turkey’s parliament as a chamber that will be comparable with the “rubber-stamp” parliament of the Islamic Republic of Iran and many are not surprised that it was the Islamist AKP that insisted on the “constitutional reform”.

The duties and authorities of the parliament are amended in the amendments, with its authority to supervise ministerial cabinet and ministers, as well as its authority to assign cabinet to issue decrees in effect of law, being abolished. Lawmakers will only be able to supervise ministers and the government with written statements, since the motion of interpellation will also be abolished.

The configuration of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) will also be changed.  The number of members will be reduced from 22 to 13. Out of 13 members, four will be appointed by the president, while the justice minister, who will be appointed by the president, will be the chair of the board and the undersecretary will be a permanent member. The seven remaining members will be elected by the parliamentary majority, which will likely to be the political party of the president.

It is worth noting that the alleged, and to be challenged “Yes” vote came during a state of emergency, with thousands of members of the country’s opposition, including lawmakers and mayors in prison due to highly-questionable “terrorism” charges, and with Turkey’s police, and military carrying out “security and anti-terrorism operations” in predominantly Kurdish areas where the opposition HDP is strongly represented.

CH/L – nsnbc 17.04.2017

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