Why did Turks elect Erdoğan president?

Published 30.01.2015 23:55

When the Turkish people elected Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as the first directly elected president of the Turkish Republic, they did not intend to get rid of him as prime minister or send him to retirement at the presidential palace. They gave him a clear mandate to change the state system and thus open the way for Turkey to be administered according to the incredibly fast pace of change in the world.

What this means is that the world of the internet revolution and the speedy advances in science and technology is changing at a fast pace and those who can keep up with this speed will survive and even excel while those left behind will fail. This also means a speedy decision making mechanism within the framework of democratic norms, which cannot be achieved with the current sluggish pace of the classical Turkish state system.

Erdoğan did not step down or run away from the prime ministry at the prime of his political career. On the contrary, after 12 years as prime mister, where he was so successful that the Turkish people gave him mandate after mandate in successive elections, Erdoğan realized that the current system has flaws and that it cannot keep pace with the fast changes of the modern world. It is no secret that Erdoğan worked miracles despite Turkey's sluggish system and thanks to his hard work and endless energy to drive his ministers to work, he achieved much progress. He made his ministers and bureaucrats work. He made his parliamentarians work. He followed up on all his projects and insisted on hard work resulting in success.

But Erdoğan also realized that with the current system of administration in Turkey the country has come to the end of the road and a new state executive system is needed to quicken the pace of state services and institutionalize them.So in the campaign period of the August presidential elections he told the Turkish people that all of this has to change and clearly spelled out how he intends to establish a new state system that will be a form of presidential system. The Turkish people, who had just given him a sounding victory at the local elections, this time gave him a clear mandate to become president and thus carry on the good work while they also clearly wanted him to continue to lead the country and keep up the good work.

The 2014 local elections were meaningful because the opposition turned the polls into a referendum on Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party). Erdoğan openly declared war against the Gülen Movement that tried to topple him and carried out a massive smear campaign that would have normally ruined any politician but Erdoğan stood firm and fought back and received the blessing of the Turkish people. Thus, it was no surprise that he won the presidential seat with a resounding victory.

Now with the parliamentary elections months away Erdoğan is moving to open the debate on a presidential system for Turkey and that is only normal. It is clear that the next elections will be fought between those who want deep rooted changes in Turkey and thus bring the country in line with the modern states of the century and those who want to restore the old system where the elite continue to rule the masses through a system of plunder, favoritism and nepotism "in the name of democracy."

Erdoğan is already shaping his staff at the palace to meet the challenges of what is required from an elected president. This is normal as the old presidential staff was geared for a ceremonial president, which Erdoğan is not. But the real challenge for Erdoğan will be to help the AK Party win enough seats in Parliament to rewrite Turkey's shabby constitution drafted by the military after the 1980 coup. Now Erdoğan has to define openly the presidential system he envisages for Turkey with special emphasis on how to create a strong Parliament that will be able to supervise the executive led by the president.

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