Bechev: Erdoğan's referendum victory will encourage "Balkan strongmen"

Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdogan speaks to the media after the unofficial referendum results; Photo: Yasin Bulbul/Turkish Presidential Press Service via AP

The victory of the “Yes” option in Sunday’s referendum in Turkey signals the beginning of a new era in Turkish politics and further strenghtening of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The referendum approved changes to the Turkish Constituton which will greatly strengthen the position of the President, abolish the position of Prime Minister and introduce a presidential system in Turkey. It is uknown, however, what kind of immidiate impact will the events in Turkey have on the region.

According to Dimitar Bechev, Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council and a member of the Balkans in Europe Policy Advisory Group (BiEPAG), Turkey’s approach to the region will hardly change.  As he points out, “the referendum victory and the switch to a presidential system in 2019 will not bring anything new regarding Ankara’s policy in the Balkans.” He believes that the region of Western Balkans is “of secondary importance for Turkey, which has been engaged in and exposed to the turbulent Middle East and the conflict in Syria for years.”

Bechev claims, however, that “the unprecedented concentration of power in the hands of one individual, President Tayyip Erdoğan, reinforces the trend towards authoritarian backslide observed across the fragile democracies on Europe’s edges.” According to him, “Western Balkan strongmen, actual or aspiring, may not copy directly from Turkey but will certainly be encouraged from what goes on next door.”


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