An elected president must show he is in command

Published 19.01.2015 23:04

Why did the Turkish people elect Recep Tayyip Erdoğan with more than 50 percent of the votes last August and give him a clear mandate to lead the country? It is because a majority of the people wanted him to stay at the helm of the country and lead it effectively, no matter which post he holds.

Erdoğan has led the country for more than 12 years as the elected prime minister. He wanted to move on to the presidency and, with the necessary constitutional changes, he became the first elected president by popular vote. This gave him not only the powers of the head of state but also, with the backing of the Turkish people, the legitimacy to continue to run the country within the boundaries of laws.

Before him all presidents, especially after the 1980 coup, had immense powers and yet they did not have to be held to account by the people. But they were all elected and selected by Parliament and could not claim they were directly elected by the people and thus had to account to the people for their actions.

But this time Erdoğan has been elected by the people and thus has to perform according to the will of the people. During the election campaign he said he would chair the cabinet whenever necessary and would be a very active president, and not just a symbolic head of state. And the people gave him a clear mandate for this.

So there is nothing unusual about Erdoğan chairing the cabinet on Monday, where he was briefed about the work and efforts of the government and reviewed the executive actions planned for 2015. It is also not unusual for Erdoğan to make suggestions, do some fine tuning and, if necessary, ask for some changes in government plans. It is no secret that most of the plans and programs that are being planned and executed are also supervised by Erdoğan and his team at the presidential palace.

The fact that the parliamentary opposition and some circles opposed to Erdoğan are trying to create a needless controversy about him calling for a cabinet session at the new Presidential Palace in the Beştepe district of Ankara is rather futile. Even presidents who have not been elected by the people have chaired cabinet sessions in the past with the late President Turgut Özal breaking the record by heading seven cabinet sessions. However, in those days such gestures were meaningless because vital decisions were not taken at the cabinet level but at the military dominated National Security Council (NSC) meetings also chaired by the president. The NSC, under the guidance of the military, would make monthly "recommendations" that amounted to direct orders to the government who would then draft laws that were automatically approved by the Parliament. That was why Turkey was called a "military" democracy at the time. Once the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) came to office in 2002 and managed to end military dominance in our political system in 2007, after a tough democratic struggle, things started to change in Turkey.

Now Turkey has moved into a system where the military dominance in politics is over. Erdoğan and his colleagues are trying to establish a system that borders on the presidential system but they are also being sidetracked at times by a new phenomenon in Turkish politics where the Gülen Movement has reportedly infiltrated the ranks of the judiciary and the police as well as vital bureaucratic positions to dominate politics and fill the vacuum left by the military. The fact that the people have voted overwhelmingly for the AK Party in the summer local elections and then for Erdoğan in the presidential elections have halted these attempts to dominate politics and the state.

So Erdoğan, according to the mandate the people have given him, has to show to the nation that he is in charge and going strong. That is exactly what he is doing.

Turkey has to put its house in order by redefining its political and state structure, not only because of what Erdoğan is trying to achieve but, because such a system is needed eventually if Turks, Kurds and other people are to live in harmony and welfare under the Turkish flag. This will be the issue in the June parliamentary elections.

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