Valdai Paper #65: Defense Through Leadership: Turkey on the Eve of Its Constitutional Referendum


The April 16 referendum will focus on power distribution rather than institution building. In other words, the organizers saw it as an opportunity to expand the President’s powers and allow him to rule longer. In their turn, Turks perceived it as an institutional choice to contribute to the development of the state. In this regard, the referendum will revolve around specific changes in the political system rather than be the one about Erdoğan.

The referendum’s outcome will directly affect the political system, as well as President Erdoğan’s powers. Moreover, the very vote on fundamental issues is dangerous given the chaos in neighboring states, clashes and terror attacks in the country, flows of migrants crossing the Turkish territory on their way to the EU. The domino effect is something Russia and the world should be most wary of as the events in Turkey could set off a chain reaction in the neighboring countries, in particular, in Transcaucasia.

The results of the referendum will have an impact on Russian-Turkish relations, complicated by geopolitical and ideological differences, but supported by economic ties and pragmatism in foreign policy. It is also important not to allow the export of instability in case of a serious internal political crisis in Turkey.

About the author:

Vladimir Avatkov, Associate Professor, Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Director of the Center for Oriental Studies, International Relations and Public Diplomacy.

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