Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's referendum on granting himself sweeping powers took place in an atmosphere of terror, with opposition leaders silenced and detained. So the reuslts in favor are hardly a surpirise. International observers are yet to give the election a clean bill of health, but whether there was any actual monkey-business with the vote is almost beside the point. Some 51.3% of the more than 58 million Turkish voters apparently said "yes" to the constitutional amendment package put forth by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). The amendment package was backed by the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and opposed by the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and leftist Kurdish-led Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), the third largest party in parliament. The opposition has not conceded, claiming voting irregularities.
Approval means a shift to an executive presidential system is to take place in 2019 if no early elections are held. Erdogan is also expected to be called to lead the AKP, forbidden under the former system due to the constitutional impartiality of the president. The change will also give Erdogan greater control over the judiciary, allowing him to directly appoint all members of the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors. (Now, the president only appoints four of the 22 members, with the rest elected by their peers; under the new system, the council is reduced to 13 presidentially appointed members.) A map from Hurriyet Daily News shows urban areas along the Mediterranean coast and the Kurdish east voted "no," with the ethnic Turkish heartland of Central Anatolia voting "yes."
Erdogan's renewed counterinsurgency war in the Kurdish east also forms critical background for the vote. Turkish artist Zehra Doğan was last month sentenced to nearly three years in prison for her painting depicting the military attack on the Kurdish town of Nusaybin in eastern Mardin province. According to Art News, Turkish media accounts are inconsistent on whether she was charged for depicting "current military operations" (as if photos of Nusaybin's destruction have not run in Turkish media) or for the political content of her work—painting Turkish flags on bombed-out buildings.
In a pre-vote analysis, The Economist warned in its headline: "Turkey is sliding into dictatorship."
The new constitution embodies the "illiberal democracy" of nationalists such as Viktor Orban of Hungary and Vladimir Putin of Russia, to whom Mr Erdogan is increasingly compared. On this view, election winners take all, constraints are obstacles to strong government and the ruling party has a right to subvert institutions, such as the judiciary and the press.
"illiberal democracy" is of course an oxymoron. The Economist is more honest in its hed: the correct word is "dictatorship." The "yes" vote in Turkey is a big advance for the fascist world order unfolding under the rule of figures such as Erdogan, Orban, Putin and Donald Trump.