Impossible to forecast Turkey’s referendum
It is often said we are a society with a short-memory. This is not totally wrong. Still, though we may all be forgetful we can always check facts in the archives.
How many of us remember the analyses conducted after the June 7, 2015 election?
Let’s refresh our memories. It was suggested that one of the reasons why the Justice and Development Party (AKP) did not win enough seats to form a single-party government was President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s holding of rallies, demanding 400 deputies for the presidential system.
Surveys conducted after the election showed that the intensity of Erdoğan’s campaign and the insistent demand for the presidential system created a negative reaction among some AKP voters.
Let’s also remember that before the Nov. 1 election, which was held as a repetition of the June 7 election, the AKP’s campaign moved away from this highly ideological axis and focused on stability.
Now we are on the brink of another campaign, ahead of a referendum on the “presidential system.”
President Erdoğan, using all means of the state, is set to conduct a powerful and fierce “Yes” campaign.
According to recent surveys, there are about 5 million undecided voters that this propaganda bombardment has to succeed in convincing, most of whom are traditional AKP and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) voters.
Some independent surveys suggest that those who say they will definitely vote “Yes” are behind those who say they will definitely vote “No.”
Some AKP voters say that if there are early elections they would again vote for the AKP, but they have reservations on the presidential system issue. We can find clues about this in the analyses conducted after the June 7 election.
What’s more, convincing the voter to vote affirmatively is more difficult to convince them for a “No.” It is not such an easy job to convince voters who have doubts about the presidential system. It may be a mistake to think “rallies and town squares are thirsty for Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. When he is in the field, poll results will change.”
Erdoğan may not have held rallies, but he has been delivering long speeches every day. These speeches are first broadcast everywhere live then repeated many times in news bulletins.
But despite all this fanfare, there are still many voters who have not yet been convinced.
The one thing that is certain is that this referendum will not be forecast in advance.
[HH] No democracy without separation of powers
I learned from Vahap Munyar’s column in Hürriyet that Professor Şükrü Karatepe, chief advisor of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has been working on a “Q&A on the New Constitution.”
Karatepe reportedly points out that Turkey’s economy was open to the world and had competitive power in different sectors. “In such an economy it is not possible to hold a platform suitable for dictatorship,” he said.
Let us leave aside countries such as Russia and China that are open to the world and have competitive power but cannot be called democracies.
The most basic problem of the presidential system is giving powers to one person and being able to hold them to account.
The executive power granted by the constitutional changes is almost limitless. It grants the power to determine the judiciary single-handedly. It grants the power to personally form the majority of parliament as the head of his or her political party. It grants the power to issue decrees suspending freedoms when the president declares a state of emergency. It grants the president the power to select his or her associates and cabinet ministers single-handedly, without any approval mechanism or ability to hold them accountable to parliament.
In short, in this system there is no separation of powers. All power is gathered together in one person.
For this reason, regardless of the personal willpower of any president who is elected, this system sooner or later will create an autocrat.
Even if we find the most democratic person in the world, that person would inevitably be “spoilt” by these powers and turn into an autocrat.
The basis of the criticism of the suggested system is this.
In a system without checks and balances, the gathering of all powers in one person means the end of democracy - even if that person has come to power through free elections.