Erdogan Facing Biggest Test

Erdogan Facing Biggest TestErdogan Facing Biggest Test

Much like the vast mosque he has commissioned atop one of Istanbul’s highest hills, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s supporters hope a referendum on Sunday will be a crowning achievement in his drive to reshape Turkey.

The vote, in which millions of Turks will decide whether to replace their parliamentary democracy with an all-powerful presidency, may bring the biggest change in their system of governance since the modern Turkish republic was founded on the ashes of the Ottoman Empire almost a century ago, Reuters reported.

The outcome will have repercussions beyond Turkish shores. Never in recent times has Turkey, one of only two Muslim members of the NATO military alliance, been so central to world affairs, from the fight against the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group in Syria and Iraq, to Europe’s migrant crisis and Ankara’s shifting allegiances with Moscow and Washington.

The campaign has split the country of 80 million down the middle, its divisions spilling over to the large Turkish diaspora in Europe.

Erdogan has accused European leaders of acting like Nazis for banning rallies on security grounds, while his opponents overseas say they have been spied on.

Erdogan’s fervent supporters see his drive for greater powers as the just reward for a leader who has put the “country’s values” back at the core of public life, “championed the working classes” and delivered airports, hospitals and schools.

Opponents fear a lurch toward authoritarianism under a president they see as addicted to power and intolerant of dissent, chipping away at the foundations laid by modern Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, would take it even further from the values of democracy and free speech.

Add new comment

Read our comment policy before posting your viewpoints