The referendum and the social state - ERDAL TANAS KARAGÖL

The referendum and the social state

We have entered the campaign process for the referendum on constitutional reforms that includes a change in the country's government system through which those who want to design the economy and politics by taking advantage of the dilemmas of the parliamentary system are going to lose all their power. This is a nightmare for those who act without any consideration for the people's choice.

The matter of curiosity is what impact the large segments of the public that have been able to stand against every intervention in politics and the economy since 2002 that have taken place by the side of the elected government and democracy and have, for this reason, been despised and pushed off, will have on the referendum.

This is a very important question.

Social policies will impact the outcome of the referendum

Those in the low- and middle-income groups – who have constantly been labeled clueless and ignorant – were the ones who directly determined the results of the five general elections, three local elections, one presidential election and two referendums held in Turkey since 2002.

So, why do those in the low- and middle-income groups embrace the political movement under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's leadership so much?

It should first be noted that after 2002, Turkey took major steps on the path to becoming a social state and formed a social state profile like the one defined in the Constitution. Can we think of any tangible, concrete and effective practice other than the “green card” before 2002?

It is not secret that there were those who unjustly took advantage of the green card practice, and those who had the right to it were deprived of this practice, as there were serious problems in its monitoring and follow up. Abolishing the green card practice and introducing general health insurance instead was a major reform in Turkey, not only in the area of health, but also in terms of social policy.

Those who do not understand the political preference of this segment of society, which no longer has to wait in long hospital lines – the first thing to come to mind when describing the 1990s – and now receive equal and just health services, are strangers to the realities of the country.

Meanwhile, the most discussed area in social state practices is social aid. As a matter of fact, there were those who accused the people who benefitted from social aid of selling their votes in exchange for social aid. However, social aid had an effective role in the participation of the low income group in economic and social life.

The segment that finds a political respondent will determine the direction of politics

While the aid provided to individuals with various disadvantages such as income, education and health, reduced poverty, it also reduced the injustice in income distribution. In other words, the social aid that was undermined as “coal and pasta” have contributed to a fair distribution of welfare in the country.

This social aid also gained an international aspect. At a time when developed countries shut their doors and did all they could to make life difficult for those who managed to get through their borders, Turkey also included Syrians in the scope of its social aid programs.

Looking at the amount of the social aid provided until 15 years ago, we know that it was very low and that its distribution was very random and disorganized. So, there was no system that tracked who the social aid was given to and how much it was. The Family and Social Policies Ministry, which was established in 2011, is significant in terms of institutionalizing social policies that also include social aid.

The amount of social aid within the gross domestic product (GDP) is planned to increase to 1.45 percent in 2017. The Family and Social Policies Ministry is making serious efforts to increase it further to 2.5 percent, which is the level for rich, welfare countries.

Additionally, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has eliminated practices like social aid that allow the formation of a close bond with the electorate from the party context, giving social policy practices a state identity.

This entire process will determine the votes on the referendum from this segment of society that had been pushed off for years and prevented from coming from the sidelines to the center. What needs to be remembered is that this segment of society, namely the people in the low- and middle-income group, had also disrupted the July 15 coup attempt in a way unexpected by the coup plotters.

Hence, the preference of this segment of society is the most important factor that will impact the outcome of the April 16 referendum.


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