Thursday, September 16, 2010

Turkey's Choice

by Soner Cagaptay

Wall Street Journal
September 16, 2010

Had I voted in Sunday's referendum in Turkey, I would have struggled to decide whether to vote for or against the constitutional amendments put forth by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

On the one hand, the reform package includes progressive amendments, such as constitutionally guaranteed gender equality. On the other hand, it grants the AKP the power to appoint most of Turkey's high court judges without a confirmation process. Prior to Sunday, the secular courts were the last remaining check on the power of the AKP—an authoritarian movement with Islamist roots that has often interpreted democracy as unchallenged majority rule. That judicial check is now gone.

With the amendments now passed, the AKP promises to draft a new constitution for Turkey. But regardless of the laws and amendments that Ankara passes, the question remains whether the AKP will actually transform the country into a liberal democracy.