Before he immersed himself in politics, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was a moderately talented footballer. It is not surprising, then, that when he reflected on mid-April’s constitutional referendum in Turkey, a vote that narrowly approved the creation of an imperial presidency, he used a football analogy to describe the outcome.
Brushing off concerns that such a monumental change to Turkey’s political system rested on a minuscule and hotly contested majority, Erdoğan said, “It does not matter whether you win a match by 1-0 or 5-0; it only matters who gets the match.”
In sports that may be true, but politics is a different sort of game. The controversy and hard feelings that hover over the referendum results are such that Erdoğan can consider himself a winner today, but he and Turkey may end up losing over the longer term.
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Sezin Öney is a political scientist and journalist based in Budapest and Istanbul, mostly focusing over populism and leadership profiles.