Erdogan's Narrow Win Could Be 'Pyrrhic Victory'

He says he wants to bring back death penalty
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 17, 2017 5:48 AM CDT
Updated Apr 17, 2017 6:27 AM CDT
Narrow Win for Turkey's Erdogan Confirmed
Supporters of the "Yes" vote, wave flags during celebrations in Istanbul, on Sunday, April 16, 2017. With 97 percent of the ballots counted in Turkey's historic referendum, those who back constitutional changes greatly expanding President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's powers had a narrow lead Sunday night,...   (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

A very narrow win for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been declared in Sunday's referendum—so narrow that some analysts believe the vote to expand his powers and allow him to stay in office until 2029 could end up weakening him. The Wall Street Journal notes that after a long drive to stifle dissent, Erdogan's team had been predicting a Yes vote of more than 60%, but the result certified by election authorities late Sunday was only just over 51%. This could end up being a "Pyrrhic victory" that will harden opposition to Erdogan in the months and years to come as he transforms Turkey from a parliamentary democracy to a presidential republic, warns Henri Barkey at the Woodrow Wilson Center. In other coverage:

  • European leaders are calling for Erdogan to respect the narrow result, which opposition groups have vowed to challenge, by trying to build consensus, the BBC reports. "The tight referendum result shows how deeply divided Turkish society is and that means a big responsibility for the Turkish leadership and for President Erdogan personally," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a statement.
  • Amid widespread allegations of fraud, the main opposition party, the Republican People's Party, says it will challenge 37% of the ballot, with the chief Kurdish party promising to challenge even more, the Guardian reports.

  • In a signal that he is once and for all ending Turkey's attempts to join the European Union, a victorious Erdogan declared Sunday that he plans to hold a referendum to reinstate the death penalty, Reuters reports. He also plans to chair a Cabinet meeting Monday, which is something traditionally done by the prime minister, whose post is being abolished.
  • Analysts tell the Washington Post that there are worrying signs for Erdogan in the strength of the opposition vote, with Kurds in the east voting the same way as secular Turks in the west of the country, and Erdogan losing Istanbul for the first time since 1994.
  • In an op-ed at the Guardian, journalist Yavuz Baydar predicts the result will bring about the "end of Turkey as we know it." "Journalists—such as me, abroad, or at home—will find themselves challenged even more after the referendum," he writes. "Coverage of corruption will be a daredevil act, severe measures against critical journalism will continue, and the remaining resistance of media proprietors will vanish."
(More Turkey stories.)

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