BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
This Sunday, April 16, 2017 (7 Rajab, 1438 on the Islamic calendar), Easter, Turkish voters, in and out of Turkey, will go to the polls to vote on a referendum to determine whether they want to change their “republic’s” constitution to a VERY strong presidential system, from its current, parliamentary-figurehead-president system. It’s a very big deal because it would effectively install the current president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in office for life. He’s already acting like a king without having the powers formally, imagine what a tyrannical dictator he will become once he has wangled power formally.
But that’s not all that’s going on in Turkey, although many other developments are tied in with that process because Erdoğan is pulling out all the stops to make sure the referendum goes his way. He is 63 now, and with the changes, would be able to hold on to power until he is 75. Meanwhile, I have no doubt that he would work to eliminate the two-term limit so he could hold on to power until his death, a la Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe.
Two of the faux-issues Erdoğan is playing up are the Kurds and Gulenists. He has been insistent that the coup last July was the work of the Gulenists and has used that as an excuse to crack down on any sources of dissent or divergence from his view of what Turkey should become—his exclusive playground. Even if the Gulenists were responsible, the ensuing repression impacted far more of society, with tens of thousands of government employees summarily dismissed from their teaching, police, and other jobs. Plus, this provided cover for the anti-Kurdish actions of the state which was renewed almost two years ago when Erdoğan restarted the war against the Kurds to garner votes in the November 2015 elections.
Once again in the context of the referendum, Erdoğan and his minions have been ruining Turkey’s relations with European countries. All manner of groundless threats emanated from Ankara when two Turkish government ministers were denied entry into Holland and Germany to campaign for the referendum among those countries’ hundreds of thousands of Turkish citizens. They were barred because of concerns that violence might erupt and Turkey’s tremendously repressive turn.
Meanwhile, Erdoğan is walking a tightrope of relations with the U.S. and Russia, especially in the context of what will happen in Syria, specifically regarding Daesh/ISIS and Kurds. I would not be at all surprised if the recent chemical weapons attack in Syria’s Idlib province was another false-flag operation done, triggered, or abetted by Turkey.
Also still unresolved is the case of bribery, corruption, fraud, money laundering, and gold smuggling brought again Bilal Erdoğan, the president’s son by Italy. This is just a small part of the corruption that seems to have taken over Erdoğan’s party (AKP) since it became entrenched in power. Remember the leaked taped conversation that indicated even presidential involvement?
With all this going on, Turks still have time to engage in other fraud, this time in the realm of food. It turns out Turkey is among the sources of “Italian extra-virgin olive oil” flooding the world’s markets. Plus, Turkish suppliers are involved in organics fraud, specifically corn and soy. ETKO, a Turkish agency that certifies organic products, has itself been decertified by Canada and the EU! It seems these countries are blocking the fake organic products from being imported, but not the U.S.
With all this going on, you’d think that Erdoğan would back off a little. Nope. His ego and power hunger are impelling him forward. Plus, he is very crafty and a good judge of the Turkish public. Polls indicate that the constitution will be amended, delivering ultimate power to Erdoğan.
Let’s watch closely and see. We’ll know in just a few days.