The Turkish people will vote in a momentous constitutional referendum on April 16. If adopted, the proposals would drastically alter the country’s political system. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) introduced the 18 proposed changes to the constitution, with the support of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). Together they secured the minimum 330 parliamentary votes required to launch a public referendum. Though constitutional referendums are not uncommon in Turkey’s political history, this particular one is extremely important in terms of the very nature of the country’s political regime. The proposed amendments would take Turkey away from its current parliamentary system. In its place, the country would have an executive presidency “a la Turka.” Despite the arguments of the AKP government, the amendments will not strengthen democracy—quite the opposite.
In the most basic terms, the referendum presents a choice between parliamentary democracy (as weak as it has been in Turkey) and legally institutionalizing single-person rule.
The amendments will abolish the post of prime minister and make the president the official head of the executive. The president will then name one or more vice presidents who will inherit the same powers for 45 days in the event the president cannot carry out their duties.