France, too, sees strong presidency as way out of political deadlock

FATIH ŞEMSETTIN IŞIK @semssami
ISTANBUL
Published 14.06.2016 22:24
Updated 14.06.2016 22:26

Discussions in France on switching to a presidential system from the current semi-presidential system are resonating with the populace in Turkey, where similar discussions continue as the country confronts terrorism on multiple fronts and is trying to move forward in terms of its economy.

According to a report on France's Europe1 radio station, President François Hollande allegedly proposed a reform for the system in a recent closed-door meeting, one in which the Prime Ministry would be abolished and the head of the executive would only include the president.

As discussions continue in several media outlets in France, Hollande reportedly considers that the change in government structure would preventing wasting time between political institutions in enacting laws and bills, referring to the long-debated and contentious labor law reform and other bills.

Speaking to Daily Sabah, Saadet Oruç, the chief adviser of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and a columnist for Daily Sabah, said the latest demonstrations and strikes in the country show that there is a change in political discourse and deadlock in the current ruling system. "Hollande has seen the issue and seeks an exit from this, while it seems he had sent out feelers about a powerful president[ial system] and finding an escape from this deadlock," she said.

She also drew attention to the timing of the discussions and stressed that the continuously extending state of emergency due to the terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels, the failure of European values based on sharing the refugee crisis and the rising far-right political climate in the country might also lead Hollande to restart discussions on a presidential system, which was previously supported by other politicians and intellectuals.Constitutional change, in particular the call for a presidential system, has climbed the political agenda in Turkey ever since Erdoğan, the former prime minister and Justice and Development Party (AK Party) chairman, was elected president in August 2014.The election was the first time a Turkish president, whose role is currently defined as largely symbolic, was elected by popular vote.

Likewise in France, the effectiveness of the current governmental system is also at the center of presidential system discussions in Turkey. The country has a ruling system in which the president and prime minister have significant powers of governance and both are elected by the people. Erdoğan has reiterated many times that in the event the prime minister and president are from different parties, a "two-headed" system would become sharper and the two opposing camps could create serious problems.

In the first issue of Kriter magazine, which is published by Ankara's Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA), Erdoğan contended that the county's governing structure impedes opportunities to rise and capabilities, and that the country needs a presidential system based on a "synthesis of Turkish history and culture" and universal standards.

Speaking to Sabah daily, Mustafa Şentop, chairman of Parliament's Constitution Conciliation Commission and an AK Party deputy for Istanbul, said that France also failed with its semi-presidential system, and a presidential regime seems the most apt among governing systems. "It is not necessary in a country where a president and a prime minister with a government exist at the same time. The model that we suggest aims to merge the presidential and prime ministerial offices," he said.Parliament Justice Commission Chairman Ahmet İyimaya told the Sabah daily that complicated problems in the world based on global competition cannot be solved with multi-headed structures, and a rational, single-headed structure is needed. He said: "Problems such as terrorism, bureaucratic oligarchy, indecisiveness and loss of time can only happen through making an effective decision making and execution system. This brings us a conclusion that a rationalized presidential system is needed."

A constitutional amendment or a new constitution would be needed to install a presidential system. The country's current Constitution was drafted two years after a military takeover in 1980 and numerous amendments have been made to it since then.

The governmental system has been a hotly debated issue throughout modern Turkey's history beginning with the eighth president, the late Turgut Özal, and continuing with the ninth president, the late Süleyman Demirel. It has been brought up again by Erdoğan, who has claimed that a presidential system is more suitable to the country's political structure.

* Zübeyde Yalçın contributed from Ankara

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