What to follow in Turkey this Sunday? It is either the World Basketball Championship final game or the constitutional amendment referendum. Both will give you a heart attack.
Turkey's ruling party AKP (Justice and Development Party) pushed for a last minute constitutional amendment package towards the end of last legislative session. The package ended up in limbo, thus the high court ruled for a referandum.
Under the package, there are 26 articles that range from affirmative action towards women and war veterans to a major structural change in the appeals courts. And the AKP wants you to vote for all of them in one ballot.
So as a citizen of Turkey, you may support limiting the powers the judiciary but if you vote yes, you are also losing your power to sue the state in case it decides to confiscate your land, or denies to pay damages in case of a gas explotion in your backyard.
And the dilemma.. Turkey's Islamist Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan pushes for affirmative action for women in the workplace, but openly says "I do not believe in the equality of men and women." So? What are we voting for anyway?
The road to hell is paved with good intentions, they say. Erdogan and his party probably had better intentions in mind when they decided to push for a constitutional amendment. One of them is a soft landing to a presidential system that will pave the way for Erdogan's bid in 2012. Another one may be a show of commitment of EU reform process. Yet, none of them seem to fully convince the voter.
According to the latest polls, the yea's and nay's are split by a hair. And the big prize is the undecided voter which adds up to 9%.
The vote is also the biggest test for Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the new leader of the main opposition party CHP (Republican People's Party). Kilicdaroglu rallied in 71 something provinces in some 50 days. Against the fully financed AKP machinery, CHP carried out a grassroots campaign "In the Bus" and "On the Web."
Kilicdaroglu, a former Social Security administration bureaucrat, highlighted eight years of AKP nepotism and the creation of a nouveau riche. His sheer perseverence to hold rallies and townhall meetings doubled the party's approval ratings up to 33%. As an Alewite Muslim, Kilicdaroglu represents the progressive arm of Islam in the Middle East. And knowing his foreign policy credentials are still thin, soon he will be hitting the road to Brussels and Berlin.
So, whatever happens this Sunday, there will be a new political ballgame in Turkey.
As for the basketball finals...Turkish authorities are expecting President Obama to watch the game in Istanbul. Game time!