This week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed into law constitutional changes designed to give him strong, wide powers.
The reforms are being hotly debated. Supporters say they will strengthen democracy. Opponents say the reforms could lead to dictatorship.
Turks are to vote on the amendments April 16. However, some critics say the government is already taking action against opponents of the laws.
Meral Aksener, a leading politician, recently spoke at a demonstration against the constitutional reforms. The meeting was held in darkness after electric power to the site was cut. Aksener told the crowd she believed the power outage was done on purpose.
She shouted out, “President, what are you afraid of, me as a woman opposing you and your powerful state?”
She later spoke to reporters.
“We look for democracy in darkness,” she said, “and hopefully on April 16 we will find democracy coming out of the ballots.”
Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk, a Nobel Prize for Literature winner, said he gave an interview to a newspaper. But he said it refused to publish his comments after he told the paper he would vote against the reforms.
Additionally, a leading news reporter said he was dismissed from his job after tweeting about his opposition to the laws. And a top constitutional law expert says he was dismissed from his university position because he opposes the reforms.
Ibrahim Kaboglu of Mamara University in Istanbul, Turkey says some of his colleagues lost their jobs as well.
Purges after failed coup attempt
Turkey has been under emergency rule since a failed attempt to overthrow the government last July. The rule permits the president and his government to dismiss any state employee. Police also have wide powers to arrest people without charging them.
President Erdogan says only traitors and terrorists are against the reforms.
“Who says no to these reforms? The PKK terrorist says no. Who says no? The coup plotters say no. Who says no? Those who want to divide this country say no. Only those against the flag say no,” Erdogan said.
Police are continuing to carry out raids under emergency rule powers. They have arrested thousands of members of Turkey’s second largest opposition party, the Pro-Kurdish HDP. Among those detained is HDP leader Selahattin Demirtas.
Soli Ozel is an international relations expert from Kadir Has University in Istanbul. He questions if the vote April 16 will be fair.
“I think it will be very uncomfortable for the naysayers to be able to push their line of thinking, because the last two elections we’ve held have not really been either as fair or free as we’ve come to expect.”
I’m John Russell.
Words in This Story
interview – n. a meeting at which people talk to each other in order to ask questions and get information
colleague – n. a person who works with you
coup – n. a sudden attempt by a small group of people to take over the government usually through violence
uncomfortable – adj. causing a feeling of physical discomfort
naysayers – n. a person who says something will not work or is not possible