Main opposition leader describes referendum results as ‘democratic victory’ of ‘no’ camp

The 24 million Turkish citizens who voted against the constitutional changes have scored a “democratic victory” even though they failed to halt the government’s project, the main opposition leader has said, warning that Turkey will be ungovernable with the constitution. “Despite all the bureaucratic pressure of the state, despite all the state’s financial and bureaucratic resources [used by the government] and despite the ongoing state of emergency, the naysayers claimed a victory for democracy, no matter what they say,” Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the head of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), said in a phone interview with daily Hürriyet on April 17. 

The “no” camp scored 48.6 of the votes while the “yes” side scored 51.4 percent, although the result was marked by controversy.

“Why is it a democratic victory? I will give you an example from our history. We experienced similar conditions before the voting on the Sept. 12 constitution which was drafted by the military junta [in the early 1980s].

This constitution was also approved [by the votes of around 92 percent]. In our process, however, half of society unconditionally protected democracy and the democratic parliamentary regime,” he said. 

The backbone of Turkey’s existing constitution was put to a vote in 1982, two years after the 1980 coup d’état, and was approved by a clear majority of society under pressure from the military regime.   

Kılıçdaroğlu said constitutions should be regarded as the main documents for social contracts, meaning a blueprint approved with the support of only half the people could not act as a common charter. 

“Everyone should see that this society cannot be governed with this constitution,” theCHP leader said, calling on all political parties to create a social consensus on the constitution. “Whether represented in parliament or not, the responsibility of all parties is to turn this constitution into a text of consensus. Politics has such a responsibility and it can’t run away from this.” 

Erdoğan not embracing whole nation 

Kılıçdaroğlu highlighted President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s first public statement before the referendum results were even finalized, describing them as a reflection of “hate and anger” and an inability to embrace the whole nation.

“It’s not right to say ‘It’s too late now’ even before the Supreme Election Board announced the results. Everybody has to stay within the boundaries of the law and defend the rule of law. Even this statement is a clear indication of what one-man rule will cost Turkey,” he said.  

CHP won’t support death penalty 

One of the first promises voiced by Erdoğan after the polls was to hold talks with the prime minister about taking a step to re-instate the death penalty as both the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) have said they will lend support to such a move. 

Kılıçdaroğlu said his party would never support any attempt to reinstate capital punishment as the social democrat party wants Turkey “to remain part of the contemporary world.” “They have a majority in the parliament. They can introduce it,” he said. 

Capital punishment was fully abolished in the early 2000s, and reinstating it would require a constitutional change. Erdoğan has said a new referendum could be announced if the CHP refuses to join the AKP-MHP alliance.

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