ISTANBUL — The April 16 referendum result that gave Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sweeping powers can be summed up in a single sentence: he won on paper but lost the political battle. The followers of the “chief” — a term used by Erdogan’s loyalists to describe the Turkish president — would consider this evaluation to be the assessment of those opposed to the results. They are focused on basking in the glory of their win.
Erdogan used an old Turkish saying in his victory speech: “The one who got the horse has long passed Uskudar,” referring to a district of Istanbul. It means that what has been done is done, and it’s too late to change it.
Now, a chief who uses the unlimited power he grabbed by sleight of hand and who openly disregards the law sits at the top of the Republic of Turkey.
The legitimacy of the results will always be in question.
Campaigns for parliamentary elections back in 2015 was considered to have taken place under unfair conditions, but there was no shadow cast on the vote count and balloting process on the election day itself. An important quality of Turkish democracy has been that election results have always been reliable. It’s a democratic tradition that has existed for decades.
Now, we experienced a referendum that not only took place in an atmosphere of political pressure and under a state of emergency but also one where the vote count is suspect thanks to a decision by the High Board of Elections (YSK).
The YSK changed the definition of a legitimate ballot — as described by Turkish law — after the counting had started. This is an illegal move that is enough for the counting to be considered invalid. The result will never be considered legitimate even if it’s officially valid.
A 51% election “victory” won by the use of force, pressure, bans and last-minute cheating may be enough for the chief to get the horse in the idiom and ride it wherever he wants to go for now, but the legitimacy of the results will always be in question.
The people in this half are willing to face danger to defy the rule of one man.
This so-called victory split the country right in the middle, dividing the fanatical followers of the chief from the equally-aggravated people opposed to him. The referendum exposed a naked and scary vision of a country that has grown difficult to govern. Turkey is walking to an uncertain future, as revealed by the social and cultural fissures that appeared on April 16.
The official results of the referendum were won by violating the law. It was a close election that showed us that there is another half of Turkish citizens who defend the authority of the parliament, pluralist democracy and secular society. Even if they do so for different reasons, the people in this half are willing to face danger to defy the rule of one man.
This 50% will never accept the legitimacy of the results of this referendum. It seems that our future will bring more division and conflict. After all, the only solid promise the president made to this other 50% was one he delivered during his victory speech — he said he was bringing back the death penalty.
It is no longer possible to see where all this will lead. Let us not forget, there is a 50% in Turkey who will not let the one who got the horse pass through Uskudar.
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