This could get sticky.
Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan narrowly won a referendum that would move the nation towards a one-man rule system.
It was tight – 51.4 percent in Erdogan’s favor – so the opposition are contesting the results, even though the electoral body has ruled the results valid.
Still, some concerning irregularities existed within the vote, such as allowing for unstamped paper ballots to be counted.
The BBC reported on the changes brought about by the referendum vote:
- The president will have a five-year tenure, for a maximum of two terms
- The president will be able to directly appoint top public officials, including ministers and one or several vice-presidents
- The job of prime minister will be scrapped
- The president will have power to intervene in the judiciary, which Mr Erdogan has accused of being influenced by Fethullah Gulen, the Pennsylvania-based preacher he blames for the failed coup in July
- The president will decide whether or not to impose a state of emergency
Erdogan has also said that he would move to approve the death penalty, which some of his counterparts in the European Union are less than thrilled about, and have stated that any negotiations to bring Turkey into the EU would end, there.
The problem with Erdogan’s win is he is seen by many to be an oppressive tyrant, who has worked to shut down any opposing voices. Giving him this kind of power will likely not go well for the people of Turkey.
Turkey has been tightening their relationship with Russia, lately, even as their relationship with the U.S. has waned.
Specifically, Turkey has a problem with Obama-era support of the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), who are fighting against ISIS in Syria.
Turkey considers YPG to be the terrorists, blaming them for an insurgency in Turkey, since the mid-80s.
Turkey would also like to see Fethullah Gulen returned.
They blame the Pennsylvania cleric of being the head of a coup attempt (which failed).
Washington insists that to send him back will be the decision of the courts, not a political move.
So, the U.S. and Turkey have not been seeing eye-to-eye, lately.
Erdogan’s referendum win has supporters, however.
One of those supporters is President Trump, who reportedly called Erdogan to congratulate him on his win, yesterday.
Yeah. While Erdogan remains defiant towards the West, he has the support of Russia, Qatar, Guinea, the Palestinian militants, Hamas – and President Trump.
The call was actually prearranged, with the intent to discuss Syria, but Trump tossed in his congratulations, which Turkish sources reported on far more extensively than the actual purpose of the call, simply because of the legitimacy it seems to lend to Erdogan’s vision for his deeply divided nation.
Diplomatic sources tell @DailySabah that Trump congratulated Erdogan for his strong leadership, "the call went very well" officials added
— Ragıp Soylu (@ragipsoylu) April 17, 2017
In the phone call, Trump also congratulated President Erdoğan on his 'strong leadership,' diplomatic sources sayhttps://t.co/IqQTGsNpAU
— DAILY SABAH (@DailySabah) April 17, 2017
The White House released a statement on the referendum victory later, which didn’t congratulate Erdogan, but urged him to recognize the rights of all of Turkey’s citizens, as well as to honor their commitment to their constitution and under the Helsinki Charter.
Whether Trump’s call was enough to reach some kind of agreement on Syria remains to be seen, but you can almost bet that when a ruthless dictator is congratulated for taking more power by the so-called leader of the free world, that one is going to resonate for some time.
*UPDATE* A second press release from the White House confirms that Trump did, in fact, call to congratulate Erdogan.