You’ve probably noticed that Turkey has been flexing its regional muscles a bit lately. They’ve invaded Syria and are currently pounding America’s Kurdish proxies north of Aleppo–which may seem confusing if you’re still under the assumption that Turkey and the US share anything more than a very nominal NATO alliance. They’ve also effectively invaded northern Iraq under the guise that they were invited, and are currently lobbying to be included in the Mosul offensive–though it remains to be seen if President Tayyip Erdoğan’s “you’re not fit to clean my toilets” charm offensive will win Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi over.
We’re seeing this assertive regional policy for a number of reasons (containing the PYD/YPG in northern Syria, asserting Turkey’s long-held view that Mosul is part of its near abroad, a bit of typical international dick-measuring, etc.), but the main reason is that Erdoğan believes an assertive regional policy will help him increase his support back home, and thereby help him finally push through a constitutional amendment to increase the formal powers of the office he holds, the Turkish presidency. This cause, though it’s faced setbacks in the past and has kind of been pushed under the radar a bit, is the driving force behind pretty much everything Erdoğan does. It’s his ultimate goal.
And it looks like he’s closer than ever to finally achieving it. Al-Monitor’s Amberin Zaman reported a couple of days ago that Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) is planning to hold a referendum in April on constitutional changes that would transform Turkey’s government from a parliamentary system with a relatively weak president to a presidential system on steroids, in which most of the power rests with the executive–or, in other words, with Erdoğan. I say “presidential system on steroids” because while, for example, the US operates under a presidential system, what Erdoğan has in mind is something far more like Russia, where the president has virtually total authority over every part of the government.
AKP has been reluctant to push for a referendum in parliament because even with its current 317 seats, it’s still short of the number of votes it would need to either institute changes outright (367 seats) or call for a referendum (330 seats). But, as Zaman reports, help may be on the way: Continue reading