Turkey: Farewell to Kemalism


Turkey passes to the presidential form of government. On April 16, 2017, the referendum was won by the supporters of President Recep Erdogan. Just a little more than 51% of those who came to polling stations voted for the amendments to the country's constitution.

Political aspect

In the current political situation, the results of the referendum mean the strengthening of the position of President Erdogan. He gets the opportunity to be re-elected for two new, five-year terms in a row. His powers are significantly increased. It is no accident that the opponents of the referendum call the transition to the presidential form of government the establishment of a de facto sultanate.

The ideological-historical aspect

Speaking to his supporters for summarizing the results of the referendum, Erdogan said that the point in the disputes of two hundred years ago is set. This refers to the Tanzimat reforms that began 200 years ago. Then, for the first time Turkish elite was split into supporters of Westernization and those who supported the original development of Turkey as an Islamic state. Erdogan's words can be interpreted as evidence of the victory of the latter, after the almost centuries-old triumph of secularist Kemalism. The parliamentary republic was the very establishment of Mustafa Kemal, therefore the rejection of it symbolizes the fundamental rejection of the Kemalist heritage.

At the same time, the insignificant superiority with which the victory was won is demonstrated by the fact that the country was split on the referendum issue. The frontier Kurdish provinces, as well as Istanbul, Ankara and the major cities of the west of the country are against. The most urbanized part of the country opposed Erdogan. This is fraught with both a political crisis and possible protests. Opposition parties have already announced the non-recognition of the results of the referendum.


The most serious challenge for Erdogan lies precisely in the gap that has opened between him and the Turkish intellectual class, which seriously hinders the chances for dialogue and the construction of an effective development strategy for the country. This lacuna will try to fill both the external forces and temporarily disappeared Islamists, such as ex-Prime Minister Davutoglu, because the president will not be chosen by anyone. Tension in relations with the Kemalist army will also increase. In the next few years, it will be impossible to exclude new attempts at a coup d'etat in the country.

From the point of view of Turkey's international relations, the results of the referendum will have a negative impact on relations with the EU. The US and Russia, each country for its own reasons will try to maintain a close relationship with Erdogan.