Cannot Ignore

  1. Each terrorist attack tests anew the values of openness and tolerance essential to free societies. Stockholm became the scene of another such when a barreling truck was turned, yet again, into a deadly weapon. This time four were killed and 15 were injured.

    Though details are still being investigated, the attacker was apparently an Uzbek man who had been denied asylum and ordered to leave Sweden. This will no doubt add grist to the arguments of those — the autocrat Viktor Orban, the French right-wing presidential candidate Marine Le Pen — who conflate terrorists with immigrants in search of a better life and refugees fleeing deadly conflict.

    “That was not the approach of Sweden’s prime minister, Stefan Lofven. In the hour of his country’s grief, he issued the bravest and the best rebuke to the terrorist, declaring: “Our message is clear: You will never, ever win. We are determined never to let the values that we treasure — democracy, human rights and freedom — to be undermined by hatred.”

    Sweden’s fidelity to humanitarian values resulted in its accepting more than 80,000 asylum seekers in 2014 and more than 160,000 in 2015, before tightened procedures led the number to fall to fewer than 30,000 last year. It has not been easy for a nation of 10 million to accommodate such a large number of refugees.

2. This is what the West is upset about Turkey:

A slim majority of Turkish voters agreed on Sunday to grant significant executive powers to their president.

With nearly 99 percent of votes in a referendum counted on Sunday night, supporters of the proposal had 51.3 percent of votes cast, and opponents had 48.7 percent, the country’s electoral commission announced.

The new system will, among other changes:

  • Abolish the post of prime minister and transfer executive power to the president.
  • Allow the newly empowered president to issue decrees and appoint many judges and officials responsible for scrutinizing his decisions.
  • Limit the president to two five-year terms, but give the option of running for a third term if Parliament truncates the second one by calling for early elections.

Almost similar executive powers for the office of president exist in many countries in the west, most notably in the United States, so why it is so bad if Turkey adopts them?

The ruling Justice and Development Party, or A.K.P., introduced these amendments last December — with the support of the opposition Nationalist Movement Party — to fix flaws in the current system. Unfortunately, the government’s proposals are being taken out of context. Opponents have cast the referendum as an attempt to grab power by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan rather than what it really is: an effort to improve governance.

The basis of Turkey’s political system is a constitution that was written in 1982 by the generals who had carried out a military coup two years earlier. That document was then amended 18 times under sixsuccessive governments. In 2007, a referendum was held on an amendment to introduce the direct election of the presidency. It passed with nearly 60 percent of the vote. But the system remains riddled with inconsistencies and inefficiencies.

The current constitution establishes neither a parliamentary system nor a presidential one. In fact, it is a two-headed hybrid, with a directly elected parliament and a directly elected president. With both a president and a prime minister elected through popular vote, any major dispute on policy between the two leaders could cause deadlock and political crisis.

Turkey is not immune to such crises. The 1992 tensions between President Turgut Ozal and Prime Minister Suleyman Demirel had major costs to Turkey in its international affairs, and the 2001 conflict between President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit helped trigger economic turmoil that took years to recover from. The 2007 referendum was a step toward a more effective executive branch, but it was only a partial step toward stability. By getting rid of the prime minister’s office and placing power firmly within the presidency, these contradictions will be reconciled.

Perhaps, critics of the referendum argue, Turkey should revert to the purely parliamentary system. But it, too, was messy. In the Turkish Republic’s 95 years of existence there have been 65 governments. (In a normal parliamentary democracy in which elections are held every four or five years, there would be about 20 governments over this period of time.) The old system led to a series of unstable coalitions that paved the way for military coups.

While it is true that since the A.K.P. came to power in the early 2000s there has been much improved stability, this is an exception in Turkey’s modern history — and may not always be the case. As recently as 2015 the A.K.P. was short 20 seats for a majority, resulting in a very unstable Parliament because of extreme disagreements between Turkey’s major political parties. Although the 2007 referendum introduced election of the president directly by the public, offering a stronger presidential body, the adoption of this change created a system in which two main bodies are elected directly by the public: the president and the prime minister. This has remained a risk as it creates a fragile executive structure that could create a total deadlock in governance.

Another myth is that the proposed constitution will give Mr. Erdogan total control over the judiciary. In fact, the new constitution would allow the president to appoint four members to the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors, Turkey’s highest legal body responsible for oversight of a judicial system. That’s actually the same number the president appoints now. Although the number of members of the council has been reduced, this does not mean it will be a less accountable body. In fact, it will be more democratic, since the Parliament, rather than the unelected Court of Cassation, will appoint the remaining members.

The power and authority of the president in appointing judges in fact does not change from today’s system to the proposed system. This allegation is misleading. The total membership and composition of the constitutional court will not change. What the new constitution will do, however, is abolish two military courts — holdovers from the military-authored constitution — thereby placing the judiciary completely under civilian control for the first time in Turkey’s history.

The new constitution will also streamline the legislative process. It’s true that the president will be able to issue laws by decree, but this will be related only to specific areas concerning executive power, such as the regulation of the national security council and determining guidelines for senior management appointments. The Parliament will have the authority to declare a decree null and void by issuing a law on the same subject and presidential decrees will be subject to supervision of Parliament and the Constitutional Court.

The biggest critique raised by those campaigning for a “no” vote on the constitution is that it will leave no checks and balances on Mr. Erdogan. This is simply wrong. The proposed constitution stipulates that the president — along with the vice president and cabinet ministers — can be subject to parliamentary investigation. If the investigation finds them guilty, they can be referred by Parliament to prosecution by the Supreme Court. In fact, this would be more oversight than the president is subjected to now. Turkey’s current system includes no mechanism whatsoever to appeal or investigate presidential conduct.

Moreover, these reforms aren’t the invention of President Erdogan. Previous presidents, including Turgut Ozal, Suleyman Demirel and Tansu Ciller, all called for similar reforms. But when the A.K.P. puts forth a workable set of reforms, former proponents of change in the center and far-right bloc, such as elements of the M.H.P. and the conservative Saadet Party, suddenly become defenders of the clumsy old system.

Domestic critics aren’t the only hypocrites. Western alarmists today are bashing Mr. Erdogan for his proposed constitutional referendum, claiming it will solidify his authority, even though they have a long history of supporting dictators in other countries. Somehow they find that when an elected leader like Mr. Erdogan seeks to fix his country’s problems, he is suddenly a dictator trying to amass power.

At the end of the day, the people of Turkey will decide on the future of their country’s political system on Sunday. No president is above the will of the people — Mr. Erdogan included. Professional spinmeisters and political profiteers can distort the proposed amendments, but no matter how far they pull the debate away from what is actually necessary for a functioning political system in Turkey, it is the will of the electorate that everyone must in the end accept.

3. Widening Crackdown, Egypt Shutters Group That Treats Torture Victims

Since coming to power in 2013, his government has locked up tens of thousands of opponents and effectively outlawed public protests. Now, many fear, President Trump’s support for Mr. Sisi could embolden the Egyptian leader to go further.

Mr. Trump has embraced Mr. Sisi as a “fantastic guy” and invited him to the White House. Mr. Sisi was notably silent about Mr. Trump’s recent ban on travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

Al Nadeem Center, run by an organization which treats and works towards rehabilitation of those who have been victims of torture in government prisons was founded in 1993, The center has provided therapy to about 1,000 victims of police abuse, its founders say, and cataloged instances of police torture, unlawful killings and illegal abductions.

Early on Thursday, about 50 police officers turned up at the center’s offices and put wax seals on the doors, said Magda Adly, a founding member of Al Nadeem. “I don’t understand how a regime with an army and a police force can be scared of 20 activists,” she said in a phone interview.

“This is the harshest crackdown on the human rights movement in Egypt since the 1980s,” Ms. Hassan said. “It’s so clear from the presidential rhetoric that they do not want us to exist. They want to destroy us.”