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Constitutional Referendum: Farewell to the ‘Old Turkey’

This commentary studies the results of the constitutional referendum that took place on September 12, 2010. It argues that the results underscore the Turkish people’s determination to do away with the current constitutional order created by the military regime following the 1980 coup and to write a new constitution that responds to the needs of contemporary Turkey. The commentary situates the positioning of the political parties in the constitutional referendum in the background of the structural changes that Turkish society has been going through in recent decades. It thus argues that the main cleavage in Turkish politics is no longer the traditional left-right ideological axis. Rather, the main line of division is between the static and reactionary forces comprising the old elites who seek to maintain their conventional privileges, and the progressive forces from the periphery who seek to gain political representation commensurate with their newly acquired wealth.

Constitutional Referendum Farewell to the Old Turkey
The old elite lost their status, including their international standing, a long time ago and do not rule any more.
 

The results of the referendum held on the 12th of September can be reckoned as a revenge of the society against the military coup and the stifling system it has installed thirty years ago. People made it obvious that they wanted their own constitution rather than one that is imposed on them. The first point that emerged out of the results is the existence of two political camps. One seems to be the beneficiary of change and democratization, hence voted “yes” for the amendments. The other camp seems to be threatened by change. Considering that democracy is a potent vehicle of change for the peripheral forces, it is looked upon as a ‘suspicious’ instrument by the forces of the status quo (the establishment). The ideological axis that provided the former political paradigm had been the Right-Left continuum. Today it has been replaced by a paradigm based on the conflict between static and reactionary forces who drew their power and privilege from government service or economic support versus mobile and change oriented (if not progressive) forces that are more ‘civilian’ and market oriented. The latter won the competition revealing that the majority of the electorate supports the incumbent AKP and its policies for managing change.

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