Turkey’s referendum: three main outcomes

Erdoğan’s AK Party membership, the judiciary and the cabinet will be the first to change when the official referendum results are published this week

Erdoğan’s AK Party membership, the judiciary and the cabinet will be the first to change when the official referendum results are published this week

Before this week is out, the YSK – Turkey’s election body – will publish the official results of the 16 April constitutional referendum.

This is the concluding step of any Turkish election. In this case, it will confirm the country’s narrow decision, by a margin of around 51 percent to 49 percent, to switch to an executive presidency system.

Or it will as far as the Yes camp – the governing AK Party and the far-right MHP – are concerned. For the No side, the referendum produced a flawed result and its strategy on how to oppose it remains undecided. More on that in a future post.

For now, the YSK’s official declaration will have a few immediate practical results. Three of these will come into effect at once.

Coming back home

First, President Erdoğan will now be allowed do what everyone knows he has been doing all along and ditch his political neutrality. He is expected to rejoin the AK Party, the political movement he founded sixteen years ago, before the summer.

The move is tricky because the post of prime minister, which last week’s referendum abolished, will remain in place until the next general election and it is this office that leads Turkey’s executive branch.

But that is a technicality: there have been occasions before when the prime minister was not the governing party’s leader. Mr Erdoğan will be officially crowned leader of the party at a date to be decided. It might be this year, but he may opt to wait until the AK Party congress scheduled for 2018.

Judicial overhaul

The second immediate effect of the official referendum results will be the reforms to the Hakimler ve Savcılar Yüksek Kurulu (HSYK) – the body that admits judges and prosecutors into the profession, allocates them to specific courts and takes any disciplinary action against them. These will take effect as well.

The other reforms – abolishing the office of prime minister, increasing the number of MPs to 600, abolishing some of parliament’s powers of scrutiny – will come into force at the next election, which is currently set for 3 November 2019.

Move some ministers around

The referendum’s third outcome is not one laid out in reform package: a cabinet reshuffle. We don’t know precisely when it’ll happen, but it’s a sure bet.

“It wouldn’t be right for me to speak about names, about who’ll come and who’ll go,” Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım told Bloomberg earlier this week. “From time to time, injecting fresh blood in the cabinet is a necessity of democracy.”

The rumours are rife. Hürriyet columnist Abdulkadir Selvi – who’s well connected with the government – wrote last week that an increase in the number of Kurdish ministers was on the cards.

Some say the position of Numan Kurtulmuş, deputy prime minister and government spokesman, is under threat. There’s even rumours that the uncharismatic Mr Yıldırım himself will be replaced by his fiery interior minister, Süleyman Soylu, although this last one was denied by Mr Soylu.

Whatever happens, the change of guard will be the best indicator we have of who is in favour, and who has lost it, as Turkey embarks on the next phase of the Erdoğan regime.

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