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The AKP’s election promise: Presidentialism a la Turca

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The AKP’s election promise: Presidentialism a la Turca


Turkey’s parliamentary elections will be held on June 7, 2015. Competition for the elections is between four parties: the AKP, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and lastly the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) — which is expected to pass a 10 percent threshold in order to enter Parliament. The four parties reflects Turkey’s polarization, which goes as follows: AKP — devout and conservative; CHP — secular and Kemalist; MHP — Turkish nationalist; and HDP — Kurdish nationalist citizens. Except for the AKP, the others do not pledge to introduce a systemic change. Creating a new Turkey through a social transformation, the AKP tells its supporters that it needs a presidential system.

In 2013, the Constitution Negotiation Commission, which was formed with the participation of members from each political parties represented in the parliament in 2011, was suspended after failure to reach agreement on 60 articles of the Constitution. The main cause of the suspension of negotiations was the AKP’s insistence on a presidentialism resolution during the process.

Although President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has to be neutral with regard to all political parties, by ignoring the Constitution, Erdoğan has been campaigning in parallel with the AKP elites for the upcoming elections. They present presidentialism as a necessity for Turkey to have a coalition-free government, to sustain stability and to enhance effectiveness.

The system of a la Turca presidentialism, which was proposed at the negotiations, is being propagandized as an election commitment with the same characteristics. The AKP’s presidentialism a la Turca is different to presidential systems practiced around the world for several reasons. First of all, it does not bring a separation of powers — instead it gives uncontrolled and unlimited power to the president. It is not clear how to hold the president accountable or responsible under this new system. Moreover, the president is authorized to issue executive orders, dissolve the Parliament of Turkey without presenting just cause and announce a state of emergency at any time. This means if the president is not pleased with an elected majority in Parliament, she or he can dissolve Parliament arbitrarily. In a well-organized presidential system, two separately elected branches of power, the president and the parliament, are not authorized to dissolve one another. Additionally, of course, this presidentialism is not accompanied a bicameral structure (an upper chamber or a senate), which is usually designed into presidential systems to check the president’s power. Contrary to widespread practice, the offered presidentialism’s desire is to organize both the parliamentary and the presidential elections at the same time. Besides these, the president is authorized to hold a plebiscite to remove any laws that are in force. This means on the one hand the president can make laws as executive orders, in the a la Turca system it is definite that she or he will use this right very frequently. On the other hand if the president is not pleased with laws that oppose his/her ends, she or he can hold a referendum to remove any of these laws.

Furthermore the AKP’s presidentialism gives the president authorization to appoint ministers and public bodies’ executives. The president will assign half of the members of the Council of Higher Education and all university rectors. The president will appoint half of the members of the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court of Appeals, the Council of State, and the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK). The president will also have a mandate to monitor and supervise elected government and appointed officials. In short, the executive and judiciary will be under the control of the president.

In other words, the president will hold legislative, executive and judicial power.

Considering these propositions, one can easily discover what kind of regime the AKP government is demanding. The AKP’s a la Turca presidentialism aims to create a super president and a populist authoritarian government, which is custom-made for Erdoğan. If the AKP wins the upcoming election with the majority necessary to change the Constitution, Turkey will have a sovereign with absolute power.



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