‘I think it’s wrong’: Most Turkish Australians voted ‘No’ in referendum

The result was polarising, and Turkish-Australian communities were split across both sides of the argument.


Figures from the Turkish National Electoral authority show the majority of the 14,250 members of the Turkish-Australian community members who voted were against the constitutional changes.

The referendum succeeded with 51.41 per cent of the vote. In Australia, the ‘No’ vote beat the ‘Yes’: 58.2 per cent to 41.8 per cent.

The vote was closest in Melbourne (48 per cent to 52 per cent), but there was a clear consensus of ‘No’ in both Sydney (65.9 per cent to 34.1 per cent ) and Canberra (81.1 per cent to 18.9 per cent).

Sydneysider Firdevs Vatin told SBS News she is happy with the result.

“I think it’s going to be good that the country recognises it’s an Islamic country,” Ms Vatin said.

“This was a people’s vote. This is what the people voted. Everyone should accept that and respect it.”

But Ms Vatin’s close friend, Sahide Baskonyali, disagrees. She says she is afraid of the extra authority President Erdogan has now gained.

“I don’t believe in giving one person so much power. I think it’s wrong,” Ms Baskonyali said.

“Look I’m a Muslim, I’m proud to be a Muslim, but I don’t believe politics should be mixed with religion. I’m scared.”


Dual citizen Mehmet Ali says he cannot reconcile himself with the political situation. He has lived in Australia for almost 30 years, and was planning to retire in Turkey.

But he said the result has made him reevaluate the move.

“Unacceptable, unfair, and I have changed my plan to return to Turkey to live there because I believe it’s no longer a democratic country,” Mr Ali said.

“I don’t think I’ll be returning to Turkey. I can’t. And I will not invest in Turkey, instead I will invest into Australia.”

Others say they are certain Turkey has secured a stronger and safer future.

“Erdogan has been a hard worker, and he’s a good worker,” said Rouhi Cenik outside a Turkish restaurant in Sydney’s western suburbs.

“Let’s see what’s going to happen next, but I believe everything will be good – better than now,” added Hasan Cina.

Cigdem Ayikol (far left) said she was disappointed with the referendum result, and claims not all ‘no’ votes were counted. (SBS News)SBS/Omar Dabbagh

Cigdem Ayikol supports Turkey’s main opposition, the CHP, and voted ‘No’. She claims many of the ‘No’ votes were ignored, despite the presence of European Union monitors.

“I was very disappointed, not because of the result, (but) the way that it was counted,” she said.

“The results on TV and the results on the main board were completely different. We just believe that it was false information. It was just taken onside however they wanted it to be.”

Turkish Australian Riza Yucel says he has become disillusioned because of the result.

“We are not happy with this election, because there won’t be any democracy left at all,” he said in Turkish.

“Dictatorship is going to happen, and there won’t be any democracy in the country.”


Mr Yucel believes President Erdogan’s political party, the AKP, will now have too much power at its disposal.

“They are going to be able to do whatever they want, therefore we do not accept this election,” he said.

CHP leader Erdal Aksunger said up to 60 per cent of the ballot boxes could be appealed.

Watch: Turkish opposition cries foul

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But Turkish national Ali Sisman, who has lived in Australia for seven years, said it was the most open vote he has ever witnessed.

“I don’t think it’s too much power. First of all, the President will be triable [indictable],” he said.

“Whatever they (they AK Party) do, they will be triable and they will be responsible. And that possibility brings a lot of power to our nation as well.”

While the opinion of Turkish Australians might be split on the result, Ms Ayikol and Mr Sisman say the communities will remain united.

“We’re still brothers and sisters, so we all have to get along,” Ms Ayikol said.

“We are not going to let these referendums or elections divide us at all,” agreed Mr Sisman.

Watch: Skuffles and protests following Turkish referendum

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