Partisan presidential model comes forward in Turkish politics
by Ali Ünal
ANKARAMay 10, 2016 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Ali Ünal
May 10, 2016 12:00 am
As Turkey continues to debate possible options for transformation of its political system from a parliamentary system to a semi-presidential or presidential regime, sources from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) have said that a partisan presidential model has become a more viable option, claiming it would put an end to the chronic problems in Turkey's system of government that lead to ambiguity in executive authority between the prime minister and president.
Accordingly, the AK Party is currently working on a plan that would potentially end systemic problems with a narrow scope with an immediate constitutional change rather than waiting for a new constitution. The AK Party is considering an amendment to Article 101 and several other articles that regulate the power of the president as stipulated in the current Constitution. Article 101 forbids the president from associating with a political party, stating: "The president-elect, if a member of a party, shall sever his relations with his party and his status as a member of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey shall cease." Sources from the AK Party argue that problems arise from the splitting of executive power between the president and prime minister, both of whom are popularly elected, would end if the president is able to continue his duties with his political party after being elected.
This partisan presidential model utilizes and implements former experiences from the history of Turkish politics. The founder of the Republic of Turkey and its first president, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, was the first leader to implement the partisan presidential model. The 1924 Constitution did not mention the objectivity or lack thereof of the president, which led to the government integrating with the Republican People's Party (CHP) during the period of single-party rule. In the same constitution's Article 38, the oath once again did not mention the issue of objectivity for a president. Atatürk and the second president, İsmet İnönü, were elected during the period when presidents also served as deputies and chairmen of their political party. Following the 1950 parliamentary elections, Democrat Party Chairman Celal Bayar became president and, even though there was no requirement to do so, Bayar resigned from his position as chairman.Under the 1961 constitution, the amendments regarding objectivity of the president were legitimized. Similarly, in the 1982 Constitution, an objective and arbitrator presidential position was introduced, which aimed to preserve the 1961 constitution. An amendment was made to the 1961 constitution in the 1982 Constitution, which included Article 101, indicating that a president's affiliation with the party they belong to must end at the same time their term begins.
With the 2007 referendum, an amendment to the Constitution was approved allowing the citizens to elect the president directly. Discussions continue on whether the measures taken in the Constitution stipulating the objectivity of a president elected by Parliament are applicable and valid to a president elected by the citizens.
A minimum of 367 votes is required to change the Constitution by vote in Parliament, with 330 votes required to hold a referendum. The AK Party has 316 seats in the 550-member chamber and needs to gain support from opposition party deputies to change the Constitution.