TURKEY’S constitutional changes endorsed in Sunday’s referendum threaten to take that country further down the road to fascism.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will assume sweeping new powers with which to pursue his authoritarian, neoliberal and Islamist agenda.
Already, since his election in 2014 to what had hitherto been a largely ceremonial post, Erdogan has tightened his grip over the media, the military and the judiciary, backed by his Justice and Development Party (AKP) and extreme nationalist and clerical forces.
A failed military coup against his regime last July has been used as the pretext for extending the repression.
Liberal and pro-Kurdish media concerns have been taken over or shut down, scores of editors and journalists have been imprisoned along with a dozen left and pro-Kurdish MPs and more than 100,000 public servants and military personnel at every level have been sacked or arrested.
Further shifts of authority from parliament to president will abolish the office of prime minister and allow him to appoint judges and top public officials while remaining in office until 2029.
Although the electors could cut his reign short, even this safeguard now looks flimsy.
The referendum campaign showed how a ruthless, authoritarian and sectarian demogogue can overcome widespread secular, democratic, working class and minority national and religious opposition.
Erdogan’s well-funded propaganda offensive dominated state broadcasting and corporate media coverage.
He and his party’s giant poster hoardings were everywhere.
Dissident meetings were banned or attacked, as the government refused to lift or suspend the state of emergency still in force from last summer.
It also appears that more than a million unstamped ballot papers were accepted for counting by the Supreme Electoral Council, in flagrant breach of its own rules.
Erdogan’s 18 reforms were passed by fewer than two million votes out of 50 million, so any and all of these tactics could have proved decisive.
As it is, his programme was rejected by the citizens of six of Turkey’s eight biggest cities, including Istanbul and the capital Ankara, as well as across the country’s Kurdish region.
No wonder, then, that Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and Council of Europe monitors have unequivocally condemned the unfair, oppressive and irregular conditions in which the poll took place.
They echo protests from the main opposition parties.
The response from the EU has been more muted. Like the IMF and OECD, the EU Commission supports Erdogan’s austerity and privatisation policies.
Like the US and Nato, it welcomes his anti-Assad intervention in Syria, while staying quiet about Erodgan’s earlier assistance to Isis and his war against Kurdish anti-Isis fighters.
Then there’s the dirty deal whereby the EU pays Ankara to keep refugees out of Europe.
Nonetheless, Turkey’s possible lurch towards fascism should put an end to its application for EU membership.
Sadly, it may also postpone any end to the illegal Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus.
It remains to be seen whether the British and US governments will denounce the anti-democratic trajectory of their Nato ally.
On past form, mild rebukes will accompany a strengthening of business and military links.
This makes it all the more important that democrats, progressives, the labour movement and the left in Britain express their solidarity with their counterparts in Turkey.
The Turkish people have few enough genuine friends at the top in London, Brussels or Washington DC and now face an even more dangerous future — especially if their president succeeds in his desire to reintroduce the death penalty.