Decoding Turkey’s ‘Yes’ to Constitutional Amendments with Taner Akcam

Historians in the News

On Sept. 12, Turkey voted in favor of constitutional amendments that could usher in an array of reforms and further curb the influence of the military. The 58 percent “yes” vote was touted as a victory for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) ahead of the General Elections of 2011 and the Presidential Elections of 2012. But that’s the short—and oversimplified—version of the story....

“Once again the opposition underestimated the strength of AKP. This result exceeds the most optimistic forecasts for a ‘yes’ vote. The majority of Turks voted for change,” said Amberin Zaman, the Turkey correspondent for the Economist.

But with victory comes responsibility—or at least the loss of excuses to escape from it. “The onus is now on AKP to make those changes. It no longer has the excuse of an obdurate judiciary to hide behind. The true test of AKP’s democratic credentials is now before us,” explained Zaman.

Taner Akcam, assistant professor of history at Clark University, agreed. “This is one of the important steps in Turkey’s democratization process and facing history. My hope is that the government upholds its promise for a totally new constitution, and its promises related to the Kurdish issue. They don’t have excuses anymore.”...

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