Turkey’s Possible Future Directions after the 2017 Referendum

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  • Title: Turkey’s Possible Future Directions after the 2017 Referendum: Autocracy or Democracy?
  • Author(s): Yukio Sakurai
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: Interdisciplinary Social Sciences
  • Journal Title: The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Civic and Political Studies
  • Keywords: Turkey, Referendum, Amendments to the Constitution, Division among the People
  • Volume: 13
  • Issue: 1
  • Year: 2018
  • ISSN: 2327-0071 (Print)
  • ISSN: 2327-2481 (Online)
  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.18848/2327-0071/CGP/v13i01/33-45
  • Citation: Sakurai, Yukio . 2018. "Turkey’s Possible Future Directions after the 2017 Referendum: Autocracy or Democracy?." The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Civic and Political Studies 13 (1): 33-45. doi:10.18848/2327-0071/CGP/v13i01/33-45.
  • Extent: 13 pages


After the 2017 referendum and the constitutional amendments that will take effect in 2018, Turkey’s new presidential system may concentrate governing power to the president, and thus checks and balances of power may not function well. This new system can be regarded as competitive authoritarianism, or authoritarianism, in one sense, or populism in another, since strong political leadership by the president is supported by half the nation, while the other half oppose this direction. Turkey thus has considerable political and social division among its people. Two possible directions are theoretically considered: (1) an autocracy or a dictatorship led by the president; and (2) a democracy inspired by international dialogue between Turkey and other states. The first might result in greater division between Islamism and secularism, and in the worst case, might lead to Turkey become a failed state, losing credibility among the US and European states. The second direction would entail a balance of internal and external political interests that maintains a respect for universal values, including freedom of the press. This might result in a soft-landing emphasizing consensus-building that reduces divisions among the people. In terms of Turkey’s best interests, the latter direction might be considered preferable for ensuring human rights and stability of the state. Guidance through dialogue should thus might be provided to Turkey by international society to encourage implementation of the latter direction. Two feasible counter-ideas are offered, one related to EU membership accession and the other to the UN Human Rights Council, to facilitate Turkey proceeding to the latter direction. This article focuses on the 2017 referendum and analyzes recent Turkish politics and likely prospects. Literature research and interviews with experts are used for the purpose of clarifying three research questions, i.e. how the constitutional amendments will affect Turkey and its politics, how Turkish politics and society will develop as a result of the constitutional amendments, and what future directions are preferred by the Turkish people? Two possible directions and counter-policy ideas for Turkey are theoretically drawn out, followed by a conclusion.