Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan tried to force employers' organizations to disclose their position on the referendum regarding the constitutional reform package to be held on 12 September.
Assoc. Prof. Yücel Taşkın, faculty member of the Marmara University Department of Political Sciences and International Relations, said that Erdoğan applied authoritarian pressure and made use of his power over the working environment by addressing the Association of Turkish Industrialists and Business People (TUSIAD) in an explicitly harsh tone.
The Prime Minister had called TUISAD to clearly show their colours on how they were going to vote in the referendum. "The ones who do not participate will be left out", Erdoğan had said. Taşkın evaluated these words as follows:
"This is not just an economic message. There are three messages also related to politics and culture. Culture and economy have become intertwined and the politicians on the right know how to use this very well. A political communication strategy is being established by creating a dual opposition. Erdoğan's words bear an enormous authority. Furthermore, he is not only doing this with TUISAD but with the trade unions as well. [...] A differentiation between 'us' and 'them' is being established".
According to Sabah newspaper, Erdoğan previously criticized the president of the Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB), Rıfat Hisarcıklıoğlu, who said, "There are supporters of all political opinions under the umbrella of the TOBB. Saying 'yes' or 'no' as a whole is not correct".
Erdoğan had harshly criticized Hisarcılıkoğlu and pointed out improvements of the reform package and its future economic benefit concluding, "I cannot see any reason to vote against the package. You should explain the flaws of the package.
Hisarcıklıoğlu replied, "We want a strong democracy. We are ready to make our contribution. However, we are a non-governmental organization. The referendum will show the thoughts of each chamber, the stock exchange and of individuals. [...] We do not consider political party A or B. The political discussions should be brought to an end. The contents of the package need to be discussed".
The constiutional reform package was met with mixed responses within the Turkish society.
Certain sections of society declared to vote in favour of the package even though they consider it as 'not sufficient'. Among this group of people are academics as well as artists, writers, journalists, activists, intellectuals and the left-wing Revolutionary Socialist Workers Party (DSİP). They see the referendum as an opportunity for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to apply pressure for a new constitution. The leftist Equality and Democracy Party (EDP) announced to vote for the package although they are against the attitude of AKP. The package is furthermore supported by the HAK-İŞ union confederation.
As far as the main opposition parties are concerned, the Republican People's Party (CHP) is against the constitutional reform package. The National Movement Party (MHP) suspects it to be "externally driven" and to pave the way to divisiveness; thus they will vote against it.
The Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DİSK), the Turkish Confederation of Labour Unions (Türk-İş) and the Turkey Union of Chambers of Architects and Engineers (TMMOB) reject the package referring to labour rights and democracy.
The left-wing parties Socialist Party (SP), Labour Party (EMEP), Freedom and Solidarity Party (ÖDP) and the Turkish Communist Party (TKP) will say no to the package.
The pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) is going to boycott the referendum. They claim that the package did not provide an initiative regarding the Kurdish question and democracy. More than 500 intellectuals from Istanbul and Ankara announced to boycott the package as well because of their struggle for a new, democratic and liberal constitution. Numerous left-wing parties and organizations have also declared a boycott. (TK/SP/VK)