Davutoğlu sees stronger global role with ‘yes’ in referendum

By Emine Kart Konya

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, stated on Friday that approval of the constitutional reform package to be voted on at a referendum on Sept. 12 will bring significant confidence to Turkey on the world stage as it will confirm the European Union candidate country's commitment to universal democratic values. “It will be a very huge source of power,” Davutoğlu replied when asked what a positive outcome from the upcoming referendum on the reform package would mean in regards to Turkey's role on the global stage.

The minister was speaking with a small group of journalists on the second day of his three-day tour of villages and towns in his hometown region of the Central Anatolian province of Konya. The tour, aimed at gaining support for the reform package, was dominated by his focus on the nation's will and the strength this will gives to the government's policies both abroad and at home. “Such a result will display Turkey's commitment to civilianization and democratic values.

And its commitment to democratic values is the biggest power for Turkey in foreign policy. In this regard, referenda are important tools,” Davutoğlu said, in an apparent reference to the fact that the current Constitution is a legacy of the 1980 coup d’état.

The current Constitution, dating back to 1982, is a legacy of the coup d’état of Sept. 12, 1980, a military intervention that has had long-lasting effects on Turkey. Moves to change provisions protecting the generals behind the coup ended in misery for those involved. Attempts to pass a new and more democratic constitution have been blocked and endeavors to lighten the military’s control over politics -- the strongest legacy of the Sept. 12 coup -- have all failed so far.
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According to Davutoğlu, bringing in accountability to official bodies and the institutionalization of the protection of individual rights are key elements within the reform package.

“When you say ‘yes’ to such a reform, your prestige increases everywhere,” he said. “These elements are obligatory for a democratic country while they are also an expectation of the European Union from Turkey. The positive outcome of the referendum will naturally be reflected in the regular annual progress reports on Turkey [drafted by European Commission, the EU’s executive body],” he added.

Turkey, which formally began accession negotiations with the EU in 2005, has so far opened talks on only 13 chapters.

The EU suspended accession talks on eight out of 35 chapters in 2006 due to Turkey’s refusal to open its ports and airports to traffic from Greek Cyprus. France, which opposes Turkish accession to the EU, is unilaterally blocking talks on five chapters which it says are directly related to accession. Greek Cyprus, for its part, announced in December that it would veto the opening of talks on five other chapters due to the continued failure by Turkey to open its ports and airports to its ships and planes. So far, only one chapter, the largely uncontroversial category of science and research policy, has been closed.

While stating that he didn’t expect disapproval of the reform package, Davutoğlu, however, noted that such a result would send faulty signs to the world concerning the Turkish people’s approach towards universal democratic values. “As a foreign minister, I can say that Turkey’s voice will be heard more resonantly and it will feel much stronger with the approval of the reform package.”
Record voting?
Later on Friday, speaking at a press conference at the provincial headquarters of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), Davutoğlu said he expected record positive voting at the referendum by the public in Konya.

Davutoğlu suggested that Konya has always played a leading role in the political life of the country and tendencies in this city have reflected the general sentiment in the entire country.

“A political party which is able to test the waters in Konya can also to test the waters in the whole of Turkey. In this regard, the result of the voting in Konya is very important. Surely, we are not solely expecting ‘yes,’ but we are also expecting a strong and record ‘yes’ vote.”
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