There's a new viral photo of Salt Bae making the rounds on the internet but it doesn't show him seasoning steaks. Instead, the picture depicts him voting in Sunday's controversial referendum election in Turkey, which passed by a slim margin, granting enhanced powers to the current president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Nusret Gökçe, an internet sensation, popularly known as Salt Bae or the Sprinkle Chef, posted the photo on Sunday, which shows him casting his ballot with his signature style and the hashtag: #saltlife.
By Monday the photo had more than 950,000 likes.
In case you missed the whole Salt Bae phenomenon, Gökçe, who is a Turkish chef and owner of multiple steakhouses, originally became an internet sensation for his flashy style of seasoning meat, which went viral. His Instagram account now has more than five million followers.
Although the picture of Salt Bae voting is entertaining, the referendum is actually very important for the Turkish people and global politics.
Nine months ago, Turkey witnessed a bloody military coup to overthrow the government of President Erdogan while he was out of the country on vacation. More than 200 people died and thousands were arrested. In the wake of the failed coup, the government declared a state of emergency and introduced a referendum measure which proposed an expansion of presidential powers. On Sunday, the measure passed with 51.3 percent of voters supporting it, according to the New York Times.
As reported by Reuters, which cited Turkish sources, President Trump called Erdogan on Monday to congratulate him on the results of the referendum. At a press conference on Monday, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that the Trump administration didn't want to comment on the election itself, and deferred to forthcoming reports from international monitors on the integrity of the referendum process.
"I think at this point -- I don't think -- I think we’d rather not get ahead of that report and start to make decisions without knowing," said Spicer. "There were observers there, as there routinely are, and I'd rather wait and see."
An American pastor who was swept up in the arrests following the attempted coup, wrote a letter in March appealing to President Donald Trump to impose sanctions on Turkey until he is released.
The referendum makes the following constitutional changes to Turkey's government:
The president will be able to declare a state of emergency.
The president can have up to two terms with five years in each. If Erdogan wins the general election in 2019, he will be able to serve the two additional terms, potentially allowing him to remain in power as president until 2029. (Erdogan served as prime minister from 2003 to 2014).
- There will no longer be a prime minister in Turkey. The president formerly shared some executive powers with the prime minister, who heads the parliament.
- The president will be able to appoint officials directly.
Criticism of the election process was swift and multi-faceted with the Republican People's Party, the main opposition party, immediately demanding a recount of 37 percent of ballot boxes, which would translate to approximately 2.5 million votes. The pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party also raised the issue of unstamped ballots which they claimed would have potentially compromised 3 million votes.
Furthermore, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the Council of Europe said in a report of preliminary findings that the campaign leading up to the vote was flawed and lacked transparency. The report noted that pro-referendum side was aided by a "dominance in the coverage and restrictions on the media" which "reduced voters’ access to a plurality of views." It also referenced the people who had been held or arrested after the coup and said that the "dismissal or detention of thousands of citizens negatively affected the political environment."