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February 22, 2013, Friday

Presidential system under today’s circumstances

The governing Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan are known to be staunch supporters of a presidential system. T

The AK Party plans to include switching to a presidential system in the new constitution being drafted for Turkey, leading to speculation that Erdoğan hopes to become Turkey's first president under a new presidential system. However, columnists find the AK Party's ambitions for this problematic and accuse it of stalling work on the new constitution. Recently, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ's remark that Turkey had a version of a presidential system during the rule of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and his successor İsmet İnönü and that these periods were “de facto presidential systems” in Turkey as both leaders had more power than Parliament has created new debates among columnists.

Fehmi Koru from Star finds it ridiculous to compare Atatürk's term in office with today as the circumstances are entirely different. “What Atatürk did or did not do then is all about the global circumstances of that time. It was a time when religious people were suppressed, ethnic nationalism was on the rise, one-man power was not seen as wrong or odd and democracy was seen as a utopia. Is it like that today? We are going through a period in which we are making great progress in terms of universal democratic standards, racism is condemned and the country regularly goes to elections. Today many countries, including Turkey and the US, are led by figures who did not come to power for their ‘heroic' acts and who can be regarded as ‘ordinary people,' and the people in those countries do not seem unhappy at all. Following the failure of former US President George W. Bush's aspirations of occupying every poor country and building his own Roman Empire, the US now seems to be a more ‘ordinary' country with an ‘ordinary' leader, and I think it is doing well.

“However, our country is much more different. We have quite a charismatic leader, and thus a presidential system in which power is entrusted to a leader looks favorable to us. And yet, it doesn't change the fact that Turkey's pursuit of a presidential system is an anachronistic one. As long as we have a charismatic leader like Erdoğan, a presidential system might indeed work; but such a system won't work with a more ordinary leader, especially not under today's circumstances,” the columnist writes.

Ahmet Taşgetiren, a Bugün columnist, thinks the reason Bozdağ made such remarks is because the minister aims to show that former Republican People's Party (CHP) leaders, Atatürk and İnönü, were in favor of a presidential system and thus the CHP should support the government's plan of switching to this system. But, the columnist argues, even if Atatürk or İnönü were president under a presidential system today, people would still be unhappy and would question the leader's powers.

Taha Akyol from Hürriyet also remains critical about the system the government plans to include in the new constitution. One of the main problems with a presidential system is that it is impossible to have checks and balances of the ministers in such a system, and so there is no way that he can approve of such a system, Akyol says.

Previous articles of the columnist