Turkey's vote for constitutional reforms last week helped solidify its position as the new superpower of the Middle East and the shining model of what a modern, Muslim-majority democracy can achieve if given the opportunity.
A political party espousing a commitment to what it calls “Islamic moral values” has brought Turkey closer to a full-fledged democracy than it has ever been.
Last week, 30 years after a military coup overturned the democratically elected government of Suleyman Demirel, Turks voted overwhelmingly for constitutional changes pushed through by the moderate Islamists of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (known by its Turkish initials AKP).
The reforms strengthen the rights of women, children, and the handicapped, provide greater freedoms for Turkey’s Christian and Kurdish minorities (both of whom have been repeatedly persecuted and marginalized by previous governments), relax Turkey’s restrictive labor laws, curtail the role of the military in political affairs, and allow for the creation of more democratic institutions throughout the country. More crucially, the reforms reorganize the structure of the court system, providing greater legal protections for ordinary citizens while stripping the military of its immunity against prosecution in civilian courts.
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