President Erdoğan and AK Party cadres continue to emphasize the significance of a presidential system for Turkey's democracy, which will provide the true separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judiciary bodies
All actors on the political stage are in agreement that Turkey needs a new constitution. However, there is no agreement among the actors on what this new constitution should include. In particular, what type of government system should be employed by a new constitution is at center stage in the debates.
While the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) argues that Turkey needs a new government system and that this should be a presidential system, the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) defends that it would be enough to get rid of the defects in the present parliamentary system and that Turkey can go forward with a strengthened parliamentary system.
While the AK Party has been referring to a presidential system since 2011, it emphasized Turkey's need for a presidential system even more after the 2014 presidential election. With Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's election as president in a direct vote, the presidential system debate began to take on an even more popular form.
Turkey came upon the decision to elect its president by popular vote for the first time in 2007 and implemented this decision for the first time in 2014. From this date on, AK Party elites began to draw attention to problems of the present government system and argue for the need to construct a new government system to overcome these problems, and Erdoğan supports this process.
However, in the 14 months since then, Turkey went through two extremely tense general elections. The first occurred on June 7, 2015. With the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) foremost among them, all opposition parties considered Erdoğan their interlocutor and asked for support against him from the people. The HDP especially appeared in this process and succeeded in garnering 13 percent of the vote with its slogan "We won't let you become president," directed at Erdoğan. This was a huge electoral success for the HDP, a party whose potential to surpass the 10 percent national electoral threshold was debated. While the AK Party came out as the first party in the election, it was unable to win the majority necessary to form a one-party administration.
On the path to the Nov. 1, 2015 snap elections, opposition parties once again used Erdoğan's presidential desire as the main factor of its opposition political discourse against Erdoğan and the AK Party. The main thesis of opposition parties was that a presidential system would make Erdoğan even more authoritarian. But this time around this discourse was not enough to impede the AK Party from gaining the majority to form a single party administration. By receiving the vote of one of every two voters, the AK Party was able to form the administration alone. After the Nov. 1 elections, debates about a new constitution and new governmental system started again. But this time around there is a much weaker political basis for opposition parties who want to derail this debate by using claims of Erdoğan's authoritarianism. In a sense, Erdoğan and the AK Party elites are working to normalize and enrich the content of the debates surrounding a presidential system.Within this process, we see that first there is an attempt to answer the question of why Turkey needs a presidential system. AK Party elites emphasize that above all else, Turkey needs a presidential system in order to make stable politics permanent. Alongside this, they emphasize that a presidential system will bring an executive who will have to account for their actions to the people at the highest level; there will be a true separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judiciary; a structure where the people choose the president will be possible; strong political leadership will be established, and the "double-headed legislative" issue that became an inevitable problem in the constitutional arrangement in the aftermath of 2007 will be removed.
In the period to come it is obvious that there will be a struggle between those who want to derail the presidential system debates in Turkish politics and those who want to enrich the content of the debate. Those in the second position will have to open the following questions up for debate:
1- What will the president's majority support be in the legislature and what will the constitutional preferences that determine this be?
2- How will presidential executive orders be structured?
3- What will the president's veto power cover?
4- Under what conditions and how can the president use his/her annulment authority?
5- How will the president's role be defined in cases of appointing public officers and, when necessary, their dismissal?
6- As for the checks and balances of the legislative to the executive, what processes will the budget acceptance go through?
It is extremely important that a new government system provide a truly competitive environment for political parties. Another indispensable characteristic of a presidential system is that it provide a high possibility of representation and participation. Also, considered within the context of Turkey's political culture, the to-be-formed system has to be one that will strengthen the country's unitary structure. Alongside all of this, we must emphasize that without a well-defined mechanism of checks and balances, a presidential system proposed will be unsuccessful.