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By Saagar Enjeti
Turkey’s government claimed victory in a national referendum reforming the constitution Sunday, but the opposition party has vowed to contest the results.
The referendum abolishes Erdogan’s current post of Prime Minister and transfers its powers to an executive president. This new presidential office can make unilateral decrees, make judicial appointments, and perform other tasks with limited oversight.
The referendum’s passage significantly affects U.S. anti-ISIS strategy, and could serve as a thorn in the side of the Trump administration’s plans for the terrorist group. The main U.S. backed force in Syria fighting ISIS is known as the Syrian Democratic Forces. The SDF is largely composed of Kurdish fighters, whom Turkey regard as much as an existential threat to its existence as ISIS.
Erdogan’s broader powers may mean the U.S. will have to grant concessions in its strategy to the government. These concessions may include a bigger Turkish role in operations to recapture ISIS’s capital of Raqqa.
Turkey is also home to millions of Syrian refugees that are being held back by the government from emigrating to the European Union. Erdogan’s increased power would grant him even more leverage over EU policies, by allowing him to threaten to open the refugee floodgate on the European continent.
Erdogan’s supporters say the law will grant the government more authority to fight radical Islamic terrorism spilling into the country from Syria. “Stable governments have been able to handle crises more effectively, implement structural reforms in due time and render the investment climate more favorable by increasing predictability,” Erdogan’s spokesman said in CNN.
“Checks and balances will be extraordinarily weak and difficult to apply,” an opposition leader told The New York Times. He continued, . “We are not saying it will necessarily be an authoritarian state. But this new package could lead the way to that, and we can’t live with that fear.”