Turkey's agenda is changing rapidly; this is inevitable for countries that go through important transformations.
In last week's column I noted that I would write about whether Turkey will move to a semi-presidential system following the presidential election.However, as this is now clearly known, on April 23 some speeches underscoring the constitution of 1921 and the essence of the 1920s assembly were delivered at the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TBMM).
This was highly significant because we have not had such a pluralist and democratic assembly and constitution since then. The unions that re-dominated Ankara toward the end of 1922 annihilated this constitution and established a system of tutelage. This system has survived up to now. The emphasis on 1920 indicates a change in paradigm.
Then, on April 24 major steps were taken surrounding the 1915 inhumane incidents that Armenians were exposed to and this had broad repercussions globally. Thus, the official opinion which had been maintained by the unionists and their structures for 90 years was more or less invalidated.
While these important democratic developments were being discussed, Haşim Kılıç, president of the Constitutional Court (AYM) delivered a controversial speech on the anniversary of the AYM's establishment; an anniversary that was forcibly presented to Turkish society by the pro-coup mindset. He almost brought the picture of old Turkey back to new Turkey. We all watched a scene of flashback.
No matter how variable the agenda seems, it is undeniable that Turkey is going through an irrevocable political process. These unsteady agendas carry a lot of weight for the integrity of the process; and the presidential election constitutes one of the most important phases of it. The president will be elected by the public for the first time in the history of Turkey.
The current constitution which is a product of the pro-coup mentality equips the president with broad authorities. He has powerful executive and judiciary powers. His executive authorities enable him to cease and balance the ordinances of Parliament. Acting as the head of state, his judiciary powers have supervisory effects both on the Parliament and the ministerial cabinet.
The ministerial cabinet and the Parliament almost have no power over the judiciary. But these two institutions have authority to designate and execute active domestic and international politics. Despite the all-powerful authorities of the president, he is not entitled to determine politics.
Pro-coup political figures foreknew that the principle of separation of powers would not work out in the constitutional order, which is reminiscent of the Parliamentary system. They adopted the principle of a rationalized Parliament as they wanted a powerful political will. However, this situation paved the way for a very powerful and influential government.
So, they took execution away from the classical parliamentary system and almost divided it into two parts because only in this way was it possible to form an active and consistent government. Thus, it was also possible to bring the system as a whole under the domination of the republican elites through a powerful president.
The system worked in this way but was broken by political and socio-economic developments later. Now the president will be elected directly by the public. Any party that has the majority in the assembly will have determined the president as well.
The balance between democratic representation and institutions dominated by the republican elites is being derailed. I will continue to discuss its results in the next column.
About the author
Osman Can is a Law Professor and Reporting Judge at the Turkish Constitutional Court. He holds a PhD from the University of Cologne, Germany.