It is apparent that Turkey lacks proper political opposition. If the main opposition party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), continues on its present course, it will repel more voters and never have a chance of coming to power. Its leader flip-flops; he makes random personal attacks on the prime minister; his wild discourse is unrelated to the constitutional amendments; he advances irrational proposals which he and his party neither truly favor nor can afford to fulfill; his new leading team publicizes its own blunders on billboards in terms that disparage the voters. They oppose the wearing of the headscarf because they do not want Turkish women to cover themselves “as nuns do,” and the party’s obsolete thinkers assert, insultingly, that in the past only prostitutes covered themselves. One brags that the sight of a woman in Islamic dress arouses lust in him. Then, the CHP also verbally attacks respected singers and artists who have said they will vote “yes.” To top it all off, the CHP leaders accuse EU parliamentarians and representatives to Turkey of having been bought off -- with lavish gifts from the government -- to support the constitutional amendments. It is obvious that for some time, no meaningful democratic opposition will be offered by the CHP and that they can only survive by being the establishment’s mouthpiece.
The other main opposition party, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), has also failed in this democratic test. The party sees itself as the only protector of the system. But its leader’s abusive style has reduced opposition to mere enmity to the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and to “anti-Kurdishness.” The contradictions between its leadership and its own grass roots and other non-political civil society organizations who were among those killed, tortured and jailed in putsches has become clear. The MHP leader has arrogantly upbraided the grass roots and the founders of the party who announced their disagreement with the party leadership and their choice of a “yes” vote. A majority of “yes” votes may prepare the ground for the end of the current party’s leadership. The eyes in the face of the MHP that we now see revealed are ideologically blind.
The Peace and Democracy Party’s (BDP) rejection of the amendment on party closure, their boycott of the referendum, their past warnings that people should stay in their houses and not go out to vote to change the law that closed their party, their new insistence on autonomy and a different flag -- all seem designed to elicit harsher and more violent reactions from ultranationalists. Separatists’ threats and killings of imams and civil society leaders, and their quarrel with the ordinary Kurds in the region -- who want to benefit from the democratic amendments and rights -- reveal their cynical hypocrisy: “Let the clashes and problems continue, or we will lose our sources of unearned income.”
Meanwhile, the prime minister has led the “yes” campaign on behalf of the government and the ruling AK Party. While his hard work drew praise, he is also criticized for indulging in polemic and unrelated verbal skirmishes with the opposition parties and their leaders. Most seriously, the government and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have failed to organize voting in consulates and other designated places for Turkish citizens living and working abroad. Millions of Turkish citizens abroad are prevented from using their vote due to this negligence and lack of foresight.
The waters of debate were muddied by the contradictions of the “naysayers” in the media and their distortion of surveys so as to favor the “no” votes. Some high court members verbalized a desire for some action from the Kurdish separatists to polarize Turkey even further. They hoped chaos would prevail and under its cover they could ensure reforms to the judiciary would not be carried out. The businesspeople of the establishment, the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association (TÜSIAD), displayed their usual front against the government through contradictory remarks and opposition to the amendments.
Many masks have dropped on the political stage these last few weeks: We know who is for the amendments, the consolidation of democracy and more rights, and we know who is not -- who is against change, protecting their status, ranks, positions and vested interests and cronies nestled in the system. We see clearly that all that the “naysayers” claim is “for and by the people” is in fact against the people, despite the people, and “what people, anyway?”
But the referendum is a direct vote from the entire electorate to either accept or reject something particular. So let’s play the game by the rules and accept the final score!