Comment 20 Apr 17

A Turkish Scenario for the Balkans?

The result of the recent referendum in Turkey may have a ripple effect in the Balkans - but don’t expect dramatic changes. 

Dimitar Bechev
Washington
Supporters of Turkish President Erdogan celebrate at the preliminary results of the constitutional referendum at the Presidential Palace in Ankara. Photo: TUMAY BERKIN/EPA

Last Sunday night, scores of Bosniaks and Turks poured into the streets of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo to celebrate President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s narrow victory in the constitutional referendum in Turkey.

The sight of Bosnians wrapped in Turkish flags and honking car horns reminded many of Erdoğan’s balcony speech in June 2011, right after his victory in the Turkish general election: “Believe me, Sarajevo won today as much as Istanbul.”  

Except that this time around he did not really prevail in his home city of Istanbul, where the “No” side gained the upper hand.  Indeed, much has changed since 2011 both inside and outside Turkey. 

Six years ago, pundits and politicians saw Ankara as the rising star in the Balkans.  Now the joy in the streets of the Bosnian capital testifies counter-intuitively that Turkey’s appeal is limited.  The recent referendum is having a ripple effect, but will not produce dramatic changes in Balkan politics. 

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