Saturday 24 March 2018

'Turning point' as Turkey votes for new constitution in rebuff to military elite

Patrick Cockburn in Istanbul

THE Turkish government secured victory yesterday in a vote to amend the constitution drawn up by the country's military to protect their power after a coup in 1980.

The vote, in which 58pc of voters backed the changes -- was held on the 30th anniversary of the coup, when as many as 600,000 Turks were arrested and at least 450 people died under torture; many others disappeared. The army drew up a constitution that severely limited democracy and entrenched the power of the armed forces and judges sympathetic to military control.

"Turkish democracy is at a turning point today," said Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as he voted in Istanbul in a polling booth in the Uskudar district defended by police sharp-shooters.

"We are sitting an important test."

The changing of the constitution will make it possible to try officers in civilian courts, stop the judiciary banning political parties and allowing the president and parliament to have a say in the composition of the powerful constitutional court.

It was also seen as a key indicator of who would win elections due before July next year between the ruling and mildly Islamic AK party and the opposition Republican party (CHP), which claims to be the defender of Turkish secularism.

The struggle between supporters of the old secular but authoritarian elite and the AK government is likely to continue, despite the government's narrow victory.

Preparing the ground for EU membership has helped Mr Erdogan clip the army's power. (©Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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