Competition is not between parliamentary and presidential systems

Published 09.07.2014 01:14

When the discussions regarding Turkey's governmental model are viewed superficially, it is possible to have an impression that there is an argument between the alternatives of a parliamentary and a presidential system. The Peoples' Democratic Party's (HDP) presidential candidate, Selahattin Demirtaş, does not make any distinction between these two systems since his party's policies focus on the resolution process of the Kurdish issue. However, it is evident that Recep Tayyip Erdoğan favors the presidential system, while Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu sides with the parliamentary system.

Apparently, the presidential election will not only be limited to electing one of the candidates, but will also cover a discussion regarding the government system's model. Erdoğan has already announced that he is in favor of a presidential system. Also, the proposal submitted by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in the constitutional commission after 2010 was congruent with Erdoğan's preference. It is known that Erdoğan and his team prefer a system that is quite similar to the U.S. presidential model that is specially revised with a pluralist judicial system with democratic balance and control mechanisms. However, it is not that easy to comprehend İhsanoğlu's reasons for supporting a parliamentary system for two reasons.

First, the party İhsanoğlu represents, the Republican People's Party's (CHP) view of the parliamentary system does not have any common features with a governmental model in a democratic system. This political tradition regards the regime as a parliamentary democracy since the introduction of the 1924 Constitution, and claims that this system evolved into a typical and classic parliamentary system with the 1961 Constitution.

It is understandable that a political tradition that cannot come to power with democratic methods desires to limit a democratic government, but these limitations must be implemented through democratic methods. However, for the CHP, the parliamentary system means the limitation of a democratic parliament and government with bureaucratic institutions. The policies affect the fate of the country and should be left to those institutions consisting of the army, judiciary, and central bureaucracy. Such institutions should not have democratic legitimacy. The Parliament and government are required to have no impact on those institutions even through appointments.

In sum, the CHP suggests that the fundamental political decisions of the country should be taken within the realm of a state that is not democratically legitimate, while democratic political institutions should only undertake short-term political decisions that are mostly limited to socio-economic policies.

Turkey was ruled by such a system covertly since 1924, and overtly since 1961. The system was formed by military coups and provides opportunities for the dominance of bureaucrats and experts who tend to have the political perspective of the CHP. It is understandable why these groups defend the parliamentary regime.

However, a country with dozens of administrative departments where only Parliament has democratic legitimacy does not mean that it is democratic.
It is evident that the CHP still cannot move away from the system of covert military-bureaucratic dominance under the guise of supporting the parliamentary system.

The second reason is İhsanoğlu's remarks. İhsanoğlu regards the presidential chair as a supra-political position and believes that carrying a political agenda to this position would cause conflicts. Also, he adopts the position of single-party dictatorship and military coups by stating that Turkey's constitutional regime was founded 90 years ago and that it cannot be changed. Also, his knowledge of a presidential system is quite problematic.
A choice will not be made between two governmental models. We are still witnessing a competition between democracy and bureaucratic domination, which is sad, but also promising since the pro-coup groups excluded coup attempts from their agenda and began focusing on participation in democratic elections.

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