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Turkey votes "yes" to constitutional reform

Referendum brings celebrated democratic reform. But some wonder at what cost.

“At the moment there is a flood of disinformation and black propaganda that claims these reforms are my personal project, or a project of my party,” Erdogan said in an interview with the BBC. “These claims are unfounded.”

That the vote was set 30 years to the day after Turkish generals seized power in 1980 was no coincidence. The memory of that period — marked by armed conflict between Turkey’s ideological left and right, a coup that led to the suspension of the constitution, the detainment of more than half a million people, executions and rampant torture — remains on the minds of many Turks.

The timing is a reminder of the destructive role the military has occasionally played in Turkish history. And the constitutional reforms are an attempt to partially limit that power in the future.

The 1980 military intervention, like others before it, was done in the name of Turkey’s founding father, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and the secular legacy that he left behind. But in this political showdown, many are hoping that democracy and secularism can both win out.

“I’m voting ‘yes’ because things need to change,” said Ayse Arslan, 34, an elementary school teacher in Istanbul. “We have nurtured our secularism, now we need to learn how to be a democracy.”