Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Turkey Could Vote for a Presidential System, Could Institutionalize Erdoğan’s Grip on Power for Another Generation
Press Release

RELEASE: Turkey Could Vote for a Presidential System, Could Institutionalize Erdoğan’s Grip on Power for Another Generation

Report Analyzes Constitutional Amendments Facing Nationwide Referendum, Potential Impact on Turkey’s Democratic Institutions

Washington, D.C. — The Turkish people will vote next month on a package of constitutional amendments that would dramatically consolidate power into the hands of the president and undo decades of parliamentary governance. For Turkey’s current president, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the vote will cap a decades-long effort to institute a system that empowers the president to a degree not seen in Turkey for more than half a century. Should it be successful, it is highly likely that Erdoğan will in effect exercise one-man rule, further eroding Turkish democratic institutions, freedom of speech, and political rights.

A report released today by the Center for American Progress analyzes how the amendments could reshape Turkey’s democracy, how the proposed presidential system would operate in practice, and how it may affect Turkey’s unique and troubled relationship with the United States and Europe.

“With the failed coup last July, Turkish President Erdoğan finally found an opening to pursue constitutional amendments creating an exalted presidency,” said Alan Makovsky, CAP Senior Fellow and author of the report. “After being handed unassailable emergency powers, Erdoğan pushed for a referendum to institutionalize much of that power in the hands of the presidency and, by extension, himself. If the referendum passes and Erdoğan’s party wins the next election, he will have enshrined a Turkish system of government with himself at the center and a near stranglehold on the institutional levers of power. This will have a profound negative impact on Turkish civil society, the rule of law, civil rights, and Turkey’s place among its fellow nations — including its relationship with the United States.”

As the report points out, the April 16 referendum is expected to be close and will be conducted in a country still under emergency rule—giving Erdoğan enormous power to shape conditions and stifle criticism—a potentially decisive advantage for the government.

The report highlights the most important changes proposed in the amendments package, examines the implications of the amendments on Turkish governance, and forecasts the potential repercussions for the judiciary and the military. Finally, the report discusses potential electoral scenarios, evaluating the potential of divided government and how the changes might affect political party dynamics.

Click here to read the report.

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, contact Tom Caiazza at or 202.481.7141.