On Sunday the nation will go to the polls to elect the new president for the first time ever in Turkish political history. Until now the president was elected by Parliament, but ironically, the move by the left-wing opposition and the one-time powerful military in 2007 to prevent the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) from electing Abdullah Gül as head of state led to a constitutional change whereby the president would be elected directly by the people as of 2014. In fact the "move" to prevent Gül was designed as a military intervention but failed and led to the AK Party winning a landslide victory in the parliamentary elections soon after.
Now on Sunday it is becoming quite clear that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will win most of the votes and will probably become the next president. His election as president sooner or later is a foregone conclusion and there are all indications that it will be sooner than later.
So the real issue of discussion is really what will happen to Turkey the day after rather than who will be the next president.
The golden question is of course once Erdoğan becomes president he will have to resign and a caretaker prime minister will be appointed. Once Erdoğan is sworn in at the end of the month he will appoint a new prime minister who will then form his own cabinet with the blessing of Erdoğan. From now on every government move will be with the blessing of the president that will usher us into a new administrative system in the state. Whoever is the caretaker prime minister is not that important. Erdoğan has said the prime minister he will appoint will be both party leader and will lead the cabinet and that appointment is crucial. Speculating on names at this stage would be wrong plus counterproductive.
However, we do have two important issues to discuss for the good of the country. It is clear that we will move towards a de facto semi or full presidential system with Erdoğan in office. This means we will have a strong presidency that will have to be supervised. The duty of supervision should be in the hands of the Parliament and yet with the current system the Parliament is weak. The strength of the Parliament should be bolstered to match the powers of the president and thus a balanced system should be created.
Besides that the president in Turkey has huge authorities and no responsibility. The only reason the president can be held to account is treason. Now that has to change. The responsibilities of the president should match his authority. Or else we will have a president who can do everything and still not be held accountable. That is not democracy; it would be an invitation to authoritarian rule.
Here the issue is not Erdoğan. He has displayed real leadership and has a relatively decent democratic record. But rules are not set for personalities but they are there for general use. This is what the opposition as well as the AK Party should push for.