Turkey heads for a semi-presidential system İlnur Çevik Was the Turkish nation aware that when it voted with a massive 70 percent majority to approve the election of the president by the people in the Oct. 21, 2007 referendum it was actually changing the political system into a semi-presidential system? Were the ruling Justice and Democracy Party (AK Party) leadership aware that when they were pushing for the referendum as a reaction to a military intervention to prevent the election of AK Party member Abdullah Gül as president they were actually setting the foundations of a semi-presidential system?
The nation was of course unaware that approving the constitutional change to allow the president to be elected by the people in fact meant a deep-rooted change in the political system. The nation saw a serious injustice being committed against the AK Party and Abdullah Gül and punished those who were behind it. It also showed it strongly rejects any form of military coup against its elected representatives. The AK Party government led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was fighting a bitter battle for survival against a coup plot and had really no time or energy to look in detail and make future plans by having the president elected by the people.
But today we are faced with the prospects of having to face the challenges of a de facto change in our political system once the president is elected by the people.
Until now we did not have to face the prospects of a semi-presidential system as Gül was elected by Parliament before the referendum and thus could not claim the support of the masses behind him.
But now whoever is elected head of state will have the right to boast that he (we would have liked to say "she," but that seems impossible at this stage) represents the masses as an elected person and thus has the moral strength to wield power… The powers of the president in Turkey are vast compared to other heads of state elected by parliaments in other countries, but they are not as vast as a president in the presidential system as is the case in France. So we are caught in the middle, which is a prescription to create political confusion if not chaos.
In Turkey the president can chair cabinet meetings if he wishes. The president can launch investigations. He can also appoint ranking bureaucrats through a decree that is signed by the prime minister and a minister. He directly names several high ranking state officials as well. But beyond all, he also has the right to sack ministers… Meanwhile, the president cannot be held responsible for his actions and cannot be supervised by Parliament.
The legislature cannot launch an investigation against the actions of the president… Only in the case of treason can Parliament target the president.
Whoever becomes president will want to exercise his rights, as he draws his strength from the people. Prime Minister Erdoğan has said he will use all his powers right to the end if he becomes president.
However, in this case the powers of the president are insufficient. Turks have to decide whether they want a proper semi-presidential system or keep this newly created awkward and semi-effective system.
The nation wants Erdoğan to lead it.
That was the message that came out of the March 30 elections. Whether he leads it from the presidential palace or from the office of the prime minister remains to be seen. However, if he opts to become a candidate for the presidency, then for him to be effective at this post means we have to seriously think of revamping our political structure into a proper semipresidential system. Of course, this will also be valid for whoever becomes president who is elected by the people. That person will have the potential of making life difficult for the prime minister and his cabinet. Do we want this?