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Thumbs up for switch to presidential system from top court head

10 May 2012, Thursday /EMRULLAH BAYRAK
Council of State President Hüseyin Karakullukçu voiced support for a switch to a presidential system, saying his court considers the system to be “democratic” for Turkey's standards in a speech he delivered at a ceremony held on Thursday to mark the 144th anniversary of the establishment of the Council of State.

An official ceremony was held at Council of State headquarters in Ankara to mark the event. President Abdullah Gül, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç, Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin and Karakullukçu were among the high-profile participants at the ceremony.

Karakullukçu addressed participants with a speech in which he said switching to a presidential system is worth discussing, and the Council of State considers the system to be democratic for Turkey. “We [Council of State] are of the opinion that a presidential system is a democratic model of administration [for Turkey.] The system has many advantages, including political stability, positive impacts on economics and a successful separation of powers. … A discussion on the presidential system and decision over whether it is compatible with the system [in Turkey] does not contradict [the principles of] the rule of law,” he said.

His remarks came on the heels of recent remarks by Erdoğan who said Turkey can start discussing a possible switch to a presidential system while preparing its new constitution. The adoption of a presidential system has been a common source of debate in Turkey. Erdoğan frequently brings the issue to the public's attention, and many have speculated that he hopes to become Turkey's president. Currently, Turkey's political system is based on a separation of powers. Executive power is exercised by the government, and legislative power is vested in Parliament. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature branches. The president is elected every five years by public vote in Turkey. Executive power rests with the prime minister and his cabinet.

The Council of State head also praised ongoing efforts for the drafting of a new constitution. Turkey has long discussed replacing the existing Constitution, which is often placed on the hot seat for being a remnant of the 1980 coup d'état period, with a new and civilian one. The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government has recently taken concrete steps to draft a new document in cooperation with other political parties in Parliament. According to Karakullukçu, a new constitution will offer new opportunities for Turkey to reunite with the modern world.

“We [Council of State] are ready to offer any help needed for not missing the opportunity [for a new constitution.] We are aware that it [new constitution] stands as a big opportunity for Turkey to harmonize itself with the modern world,” he said, and urged that the preparation of the new document have wide participation from the people, civil society organizations and political groups.

According to Karakullukçu, the new constitution should preserve some existing principles enshrined in the existing document such as Turkey's being a republic and the Republic's democratic and secular nature.

The Turkish Constitution has three articles that define Turkey as a republic that is democratic, secular and a social state governed by the rule of law. They also define Turkish as the official language in Turkey and Ankara as its capital. The first three articles are irrevocable, and amendments to them cannot even be suggested, according to the Constitution.

In addition, Karakullukçu said judges and prosecutors should remain “independent from any intervention or pressure” from third parties so that they will feel free in their decisions on legal cases and investigations. “Most leading actors in the public are cautious with regard to protecting the reputation of the judiciary. We owe thanks to them for it. Nevertheless, I need to state that some people do not act as cautiously. Courts do not belong to judges. Judges come and go, but the judiciary continues to exist. Statements that aim to damage the reputation of the judiciary will not do any good to the judiciary or the justice system,” he said.

Erdoğan also released a message for the anniversary of the establishment of the Council of State in which he underlined the importance of simultaneous improvements in the fields of the economy, democracy and the judiciary. “As the [AK Party] government, we have been engaged in intensive efforts for improvements of all principles of a democratic, secular and constitutional state without allowing any of the principles to go ahead or stay ahead of the other principles,” the prime minister's message read.

Erdoğan, in addition, praised recent reforms undertaken by Turkey in the fields of the economy, democracy and the judiciary, saying the reforms helped raise Turkey's reputation in its region and in the entire world. “We have worked to get rid of problems that used to obstruct the efficient-working of Turkey's justice system. … I believe that our Republic will attain the objectives set for its 100th anniversary and take its place among the world's 10 most developed countries as it continues to eliminate troubles in the justice system and keeps up with democratic and judicial reforms,” he stated.

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