During the April 16, 2017 referendum campaign for constitutional changes that established the new presidential system, the opposition in Turkey and Western countries led a chorus claiming the new system would reduce Parliament to a hollow body and deal a sharp blow to democracy.
At the time, we went to great pains trying to explain that the new system actually strengthened the legislative branch, not only as a lawmaking mechanism, but also as a strong supervisory body that will be able to overrule the president if necessary. The opposition spread disinformation and blatant lies that Parliament was being reduced into a worthless body with no powers.
Today we have witnessed with satisfaction that the opposition accepts the importance of Parliament in the new system and is thus making a massive effort to beat the alliance set up between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the conservative Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) in the parliamentary elections set for June 24.The opposition has also forged an election alliance between the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), the Good Party (İYİ Party), the Saadet Party (SP) and the Democrat Party (DP) to win as many votes as possible to gain the upper hand in Parliament.
This means when you control Parliament, you also have leverage over the president, who is the head of the executive branch of the new system. Without the cooperation of Parliament, the president would find it extremely hard to run the country; so it is a perfectly democratic system after all. Western European countries were either sorely misled or knowingly opposed the constitutional changes by claiming they were undemocratic and created one-man rule in Turkey.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the chairman of the AK Party, has seen the dangers looming on the horizon and has thus fielded a strong team of candidates in the upcoming parliamentary elections. Many people felt that some close associates of the president would not be named candidates and would be actually set aside to be named for the Cabinet that will be established by Erdoğan after the elections, provided he wins the presidency.
The list of candidates of the AK Party released Monday shows that the president is taking the opposition assault seriously and has fielded practically all his current ministers as candidates for Parliament. Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım heads the list in the Aegean post city of İzmir, while the president's son-in-law and Energy Minister Berat Albayrak as well as the strong Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu are both leading the list of candidates in two of İstanbul's electoral districts. These Cabinet members were regarded as Erdoğan's "top guns" and some were even slated to become vice presidents after the polls. All of the top ministers are now candidates except for European Affairs Minister Ömer Çelik, Finance Minister Naci Ağbal, Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci and Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek, some of whom may well be slated for Cabinet posts after June 24. Yet, by naming some of his very top people for Parliament, Erdoğan has shown the importance he attaches in presenting a strong list for the Grand National Assembly and thus securing the cooperation of the house.
It is clear that the battle for Parliament will be tough, but this also reflects the power and virtues of our democracy.