PM says Turkey can discuss switch to presidential system

PM says Turkey can discuss switch to presidential system

May 07, 2012, Monday/ 14:51:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said Turkey can start discussing a possible switch to a presidential system while preparing its new constitution.

“As you know we are now in the process of writing a new constitution. This can be discussed during this process. It may be discussed whether Turkey can adopt a presidential system or a semi-presidential system. If Parliament says in the end that the country can switch to that system, there is nothing left for us to say,” Erdoğan said, underlining that Parliament would have the final say on the issue.

His remarks came on Monday at a joint press conference with his Slovenian counterpart, Janez Janša, after Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ said on the same day that Turkey should discuss a possible switch to the presidential system.

Speaking during a symposium titled “Parliamentary Inspection Symposium,” which was organized by Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek, the Legislation Association (YASADER) and the Legislation Specialists Association (YUDER) and was held in the Parliament on Monday, Bozdağ said that in the presidential system the legislative and executive bodies are truly independent of each other. He said, “The system that most allows for checks and balances is the presidential system. We should either renew the parliamentary system, or we should discuss adopting a presidential system.”

Bozdağ also said Turkey’s current political system cannot be considered truly parliamentarian as “it is difficult to see the manifestation of the principle of separation of powers.”

Recalling past coups and military memorandums against governments, Ayhan Sefer Üstün, the head of Parliament’s Human Rights Investigation Commission, also has said that a parliament that has been wearied by coups and memorandums can not function well and carry out powerful checks and balances.

Complaining about Parliament’s bylaws, parliamentary group deputy chairmen of opposition parties the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) also expressed that amendments to the parliamentary charter are necessary. BDP parliamentary group deputy chairman Hasip Kaplan said, “Let’s form a commission for a new charter,” while MHP parliamentary group deputy chairman Mehmet Şandır said, “[Deficiencies in] the charter cast a shadow over Parliament’s authority of checks and balances.”

Meanwhile, Çiçek has said that seeing that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) is always complaining about the slow pace of legislation and opposition parties are always complaining about the inefficiency of the checking process, it seems clear that the problems could be solved with a new charter. Noting that parliaments are the greatest assurance of democracy everywhere in the world, Çiçek said: “Parliament worked on revising the parliamentary charter in the previous term; but as no one gave enough support to the work, there were no results. We have not seen any strong will to form a new charter until now. This issue should be discussed and the charter should be revised well to determine where my authorities as a parliament speaker start and end.”

Emphasizing the importance of Parliament’s authority of overseeing the appropriateness of the government’s moves, Çiçek further said: “In a parliamentary democratic system, Parliament’s authority to check the government’s actions is of utmost significance. Remember that in the past this authority of Parliament was being usurped by Turkey’s judicial branch. But in fact the authority to determine whether a judicial decision is for the country’s good or not belongs only to Parliament. The judiciary’s duty is to make judgments only in terms of law.”

Turkey’s political system is based on the separation of powers. The executive power is exercised by the government and the legislative power is vested in Parliament. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. Currently, the president is elected every five years by public vote in Turkey. Executive power rests with the prime minister and the cabinet.

The adoption of a presidential system has been a common source of debate in Turkey. Erdoğan, who is a supporter of a presidential system, frequently brings the issue to the public’s attention and many have speculated that he hopes to become Turkey’s president.

Erdoğan has given the green light for a switch to a presidential system many times. He frequently says he has been a supporter of the presidential system for years and that he would be willing to take action to this effect, in line with the approval of the public.

Stressing that he is warm to the idea of adopting a presidential system in Turkey on the grounds that it will facilitate the smooth running of the system and yield more fruitful results for the country, Erdoğan once said the US presidential system might be taken as a model.

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