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May 11, 2012, Friday

The presidential dream of PM Erdoğan

Since the parliamentary Constitutional Reconciliation Commission started to write the first draft of the new constitution, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has put the presidential system debate on the agenda.

While Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan supports the presidential system that deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ has proposed, Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli strongly oppose Bozdağ’s proposal.

Thus, to ensure the transition to a presidential system, the AK Party has to cooperate with the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), and none of the AK Party deputies should vote differently than their party.

In fact, it is not an easy task.

Actually, a presidential system is not a foreign subject for Turkey. Until Turkey adopted a multiparty system in 1946, the regime that was implemented under the name of a parliamentary system was actually a presidential system.

At that time, the president used to determine the candidates, governors, mayors, ministers and some important bureaucrats.

A dictatorial regime ruled in Turkey until 1950.

Unlike the system that we experienced until 1950, the new system that we are discussing now would be a democratic one.

However, it would be inappropriate to design the system by considering only Erdoğan’s character. As a matter of fact, the new constitution will be a text that a majority of the people will agree on and support for a long time.

The main question when we discuss a presidential system is whether we will replace the status of the president with the prime minister’s status or install a real presidential system?

This is because there is a huge difference between these two systems.

First of all, we have to redesign our parliamentary election system and adopt the narrow constituency system in order to prevent a concentration of power in a single person.

In other words, the system should not allow a person to determine all the deputy candidates. Otherwise, we would face a situation where Parliament merely rubber-stamps presidential decisions. If this were the case, we would have difficulty finding independent, brave deputies who would apply to the Constitutional Court for annulment of a law, similar to France’s controversial genocide-denial law, which was passed by the French parliament at the request of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Similarly, we should discuss if governors should be elected or appointed to office. Local administrations in which governors are elected and provincial city councils have extensive powers should be an integral part of a presidential system.

Meanwhile, regional administrative units should be discussed as well.

For this reason, those who have brought the presidential system onto the agenda have to make it clear what exactly they mean when they talk about a presidential system because European examples show that within the limits of democracy, the system does not negatively affect the stability of a country.

While France, which adopted a semi-presidential system, is on the verge of an economic crisis, Germany, which has a federal parliamentary system, is one of the strongest economies in the world.

What we discuss now is how Erdoğan will shape Turkey after 2014. Of course, the people will decide.

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