On the 16th of April the referendum to change Turkey's governance from a parliamentary system to an executive presidency took place, with 51.4 percent of the citizens voting for and 48.6 percent voting against the constitutional changes. Turnout was reportedly 85 percent. In the three biggest cities - Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir- and in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast the majority voted 'no', in many regions in the Anatolian heartland however the 'yes' vote won.
Reactions and criticism
The referendum results were ruled valid by Turkey's electoral body, opposition parties however refuted this saying that irregularities took place during the voting process. They described the decision of The Supreme Election Board (YSK) to allow unstamped ballots to pass as legal votes as voter fraud. Yesterday, on the 18th of April, the Republican’s People Party (CHP) filed a formal request seeking the referendum to be annulled because of voting irregularities. The OSCE was critical as well, stating that the referendum campaign was conducted on an "unlevel playing field" and that the counting of ballots in the April 16 referendum had been marred by "late procedural changes." President Erdoğan rejected the criticism and told the OSCE observers to "know your place.
The constitutional changes will enable the president to appoint and fire ministers and top state officials, control the budget, issue decrees, and declare emergency rule. Parliamentary elections will be held every five years, instead of four, and at the same time as the presidential elections. Furthermore the office of prime minister will disappear and parliament will lose its right of interpellation. The reforms are expected to be fully implemented in 2019, coinciding with the November 2019 elections. If Erdoğan wins two presidential elections in a row, he could stay in power until 2029. Opponents fear that the changes will lead to a one-man rule and autocracy.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Turkish leaders should open talks with opponents and the EU. European Parliament’s Turkey rapporteur Kati Piri said in a statement that “the country cannot join the EU with a constitution that doesn’t respect the separation of powers and has no checks and balances. If the package is implemented unchanged, this will have to lead to the formal suspension of the EU accession talks (…).”
Erdogan to reinstate the death penalty?
Erdoğan said in his victory speech that he will immediately discuss bringing back the capital punishment, which was abolished in 2004. France’s foreign ministry urged the Turkish government to respect the European Convention on Human Rights and its ban on the death penalty. The EU previously indicated that reinstating the death penalty would lead to the end of membership negotiations, calling it a 'red line'.