MÜMTAZER TÜRKÖNE

Who will become president?

A recent decision by the Constitutional Court is like a letter directly addressed to a certain name. President Abdullah Gül is allowed to run for the presidency in the elections to be held in 2014. Could he become president again? More appropriately, would he want to become president again? Asked about this matter, Gül said, “There is a lot of time; it is too early to talk about it.” This response means that every possibility should be considered.

Traditionally, presidential elections in Turkey strongly affect the entire political stage. For this reason, a projection that does not have the potential to answer the question of who will become president is of no importance. Why are presidential elections so important?

There are many answers to this question. Some are relevant to the private and personal worlds of the politicians. The zenith of a political career is the position of president. This is some sort of a reward, some sort of kingdom. It represents the power to define policy without having to consider daily matters. It is a mission of prestige and honor.

Secondly, the president has extensive powers to determine political decisions. Turkey has been ruled by a president and prime minister holding similar political views and backgrounds since 2007. For this reason, the president’s power to block the government and Parliament has not been discernable. The president holds a key role and position within the democratic system. He does not have direct executive powers but he may block the political process. The importance of the presidency becomes even clearer when the principle of constitutional irresponsibility is considered.

There is something else which makes the question of who will become president more critical. The president who will be elected in 2014 will hold some different powers and authorities from those held by the current one. Even if we assume that the constitutional system remains the same, a president to be elected in a two-round election in 2014 will be able to rely on the popular vote in their decisions and actions. He will become more influential and powerful vis-à-vis the government. On the other hand, Turkey is holding endless political discussions with reference to presidential matters. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan does not find the current authorities sufficient. He would particularly like to see a presidency that preserves linkage to his party. This model refers to a president who will have power and influence in day-to-day matters.

If, as might be expected, a new constitution is made by the end of this year, how will the presidency be shaped? If a new system is attained out of consensus, returning to the former system is the most probably outcome. In other words, the president will be elected by Parliament instead of popular vote. This way, the impact of the discussions the president’s involvement in daily politics will be moderated.

All calculations are based on the assumption that Erdoğan will become president in 2014. But this is not certain because Gül may become a candidate again. What will happen if he does? The answer to this question shows the importance of the question of who will become president. Most probably, in the event that both men decide to stand for the presidency, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) will divide into two camps. Erdoğan’s political career will end in 2015 and another party will win the elections and form the government.

The gains that everybody might acquire in the party divide will depend on the answer to this question. The path that will be followed to resolve an intricate problem will become the question of who will become president.

2012-06-18