Turkish-style presidential system

Published 29.01.2015 02:01

It can be inferred from the latest statements that after the general elections in June 2015, a new constitution and presidential system will be on the agenda. It is not yet clear what kind of presidential system will be introduced in Turkey. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gave some clues about it in statements he made following his visit to Africa. One can deduce from those statements that the two-house models in the U.S. or France would not be preferred. A single-house form will be brought to the agenda to accelerate the governing processes in the country. Also, an election model without a threshold, which would enable representation of all segments of society in Parliament, will be actualized. Apart from these two points, the technical details are expected to be clarified after the elections.

The cause of the presidential system discussions in Turkey does not stem from the search for a new route or new regime. We are confronted by a serious problem with the system that requires being resolved. This problem descended to us from the pressure groups that interfered with Turkish politics many times in the past. Since these pressure groups used the presidential position as a control mechanism on elected representatives, presidential elections always brought crises and instabilities. 2007 was the turning point in presidential elections. The General Staff objected to the Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) presidential candidate, Abdullah Gül, by asserting that a president should be secular, not in words, but in actions. And when Gül was elected in Parliament despite that, judicial mechanisms intervened and prevented it. Upon that, the AK Party did not step back and resorted to early elections and a referendum. With a constitutional alteration, the method of electing the president was changed. Now, the president is elected by popular vote. After the first election on Aug. 10, 2014, which was held after this alteration, Erdoğan became the first president to be elected by popular vote.

This new step was taken to prevent the manipulation of presidential elections by pressure groups and caused a new systemic problem. In Turkey, presidents are now elected by popular vote. The candidates conduct strong election campaigns and make political promises during these campaigns. A candidate must receive over 50 percent of the vote to win the election. Every politician having such strong public support would doubtlessly want to use their presidential authorities defined by ambiguous lines in the Constitution to their full extent.

Currently the president and prime minister are from the same party. Therefore, the system operates smoothly. However, everything could be inverted if two politicians with different views hold these positions. The present system has a potential to turn disagreements into profound political crises.

We have two options ahead. We can return to the former system in which the president was elected by Parliament. Naturally, no one would consider this option since the memories of the attempts at domination are still fresh in the mind. If we cannot return, we need something new. And discussions of a presidential system are now being conducted within this scope.

The results of the upcoming general elections will determine the future of a presidential system in Turkey. Depending on the possible results of the election, we have three scenarios. In the first scenario, the AK Party would receive 367 seats in Parliament, which would enable it to change the Constitution without opposition. If it reaches 367 seats, the party would immediately initiate working on a new constitution and presidential system. In the current conditions, the likelihood of AK Party having 367 deputies seems low.

The second scenario is more probable and reasonable. According to this, the AK Party would not reach 367 seats but still could receive more than 330 seats, which is the majority that could enable them to bring the constitutional regulations up for a referendum. In this case, the AK Party would start working on a new constitution that would also include a presidential system. It would make its offer via a referendum since it knows it would not be accepted in Parliament. The voters would determine the form of a new constitution and decide whether a presidential system would be introduced.

In the third scenario, the AK Party remains under 330 seats. In this situation, the AK Party would have to cooperate with opposition parties. However, it can be recalled that this search for cooperation proved unsuccesful during previous work on the Constitution.

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