Turkish public overwhelmingly approves reform package, boosting democratization
The Turkish public yesterday delivered a strong go-ahead to the ruling Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) reform package, giving the government's constitutional amendments 58 percent of the national vote, higher than opinion polls had predicted. The referendum was seen as a test for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government, which has pushed for political and economic reforms since coming to power in 2002. The government believes overhauling the military-era Constitution is a key step in Turkey's path to full democracy. The "no front" got 42 percent of the national vote. Voters flocked to polling stations early in the day to vote on the constitutional changes, designed to rework the 1982 Constitution, which was ratified in a referendum after the 1980 military coup. The vote was seen as a test of confidence for the AK Party, which has won the past three elections – two parliamentary elections and a municipal election. Overall turnout for the vote was around 77 percent. The 26-article constitutional amendment package is designed to make the military more accountable to civilian courts as well as restructure the Constitutional Court and Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) while also making reforms – such as strengthening the rights of women and children – likely to help Turkey's bid to join the European Union.