Turkey's new system to ensure checks and balances between legislative, executive branches

ŞEYMA NAZLI GÜRBÜZ @SeymNazli
ISTANBUL
Published
On June 24, Turkey re-elected incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as the country’s first president under the new presidential system.
On June 24, Turkey re-elected incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as the country’s first president under the new presidential system.

New system to ensure checks and balances between legislative, executive branches

On June 24, Turkey re-elected the incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as the country's first president under the new presidential system. The new presidential system, which was approved as a result of the April 16, 2017 referendum, puts limits on both the parliament and president by determining strictly, the limits of their power, to prevent any intervention to each other.

According to the new presidential system, Turkey will be ruled by a presidential system from now on, leaving the parliamentary system behind.

Some critics of the system claim that Turkey is moving towards one-man rule, stating that the separation of powers is being dissolved and will be concentrated with the president, which would eliminate checks and balances.

Supporters, on the other hand, suggest that the new system will bring much more stability compared to the former one, speed up the decision-making processes in the state institutions and lead to a more practical governing system.

One of these supporters, the principal judicial consultant to Erdoğan, Mehmet Uçum had told Al Jazeera in an interview in 2017 that the concerns about the system of checks are "completely unfounded" since the system of checks and balances is stronger than it is in the former parliamentary system.

"In the parliamentary system, if the executive branch, the government, has the majority in the parliament, it can pass any law without facing any resistance ... the separation between the executive and legislative branches is stronger in the new system," Uçum said, emphasizing that the system is ensured with the checks and balances even more than the previous system.

One of the biggest differences from the previous system is the fact that the executive branch, which consisted of the Cabinet, the prime minister and the president in the parliamentary system, cannot be checked by the legislative branch, the Parliament, anymore. The reason behind this is that there will be no more prime minister and the president will be elected directly by the people so the executive branch will be able to have its legitimacy through the people directly, and not via the Parliament.

Since Cabinet members will also be appointed by the president, their legitimacy will also be assured by the people as well.

Another point is the change in the ways of checking the presidency. In the parliamentary system, the checking was made through written and oral questions, parliamentary researches, interpellation and parliamentary investigation. Most of these controlling authorities in the Parliament remain the same within the new system, exceptinterpellation. Oral questioning has also been removed since they were already turning to the written questions and the prime minister chose not to answer them several times. Thus, this removal has no practical value in the checking system.

The most important and effective checking device within the new system, on the other hand, is by far the research committees.

One of the main qualities of research committees that make them effective is the fact that they are entitled to check the executive branch as committees that are independent from the executive branch.

This was not achievable in the parliamentary system since both the executive and legislative were intervened within the parliament and thus it wasn't possible to have an independent checking system.

Another quality of the research committees is that their meetings and reports are open to the people, and so can be monitored and checked by the public as well.

The parliamentary investigation, as another checking device, will enable Parliament to accuse the president and bring him/her to the Supreme Court if they manage to achieve the two thirds majority.

The change to the presidential system necessitated making a series of constitutional changes in accordance with the approved new system. Thus, with the April 2017 referendum, the Turkish people approved amendments to 18 articles of the country's existing Constitution, which was written and executed in 1982.

The new legal regulations also included the transition from a parliamentary government system to a presidential system, handing executive powers to the president and allowing him/her to maintain political party membership. According to this system, there will be no more prime minister and the president will be elected by the public, not by the parliament, every five years.

In the former system, the only crime that the president could have been charged for was treason. If one third of the parliament made a written offer on treason by the president to the Parliament, and this offer was approved by the three fourths of the Parliament, the president was brought to the Supreme Court, which was enough to impeach him from his duty.

In the new system, however, the president can be charged with any crime that is recognized under Turkish Criminal Law. Besides, the president is not automatically impeached if he is brought to the court accused of a crime. He needs to be found guilty of a crime, which would cause him to be not to be elected in the first place, in order to be impeached from his duty.

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