Consider Trump before it’s too late, Mr. Erdoğan
One of the main problems of the U.S. administration up until a few weeks ago was the rise of anti-Americanism all over the world.
That included the rise of anti-Americanism in Turkey. In The Atlantic Council discussions in Ankara on Jan. 18, two days before Donald Trump’s inauguration as the new president of the United States, that issue was raised by Stephen Hadley as the head of the American delegation during meetings with President Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım.
As an answer to that, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said the U.S. could help fight anti-Americanism in Turkey if the Trump administration positively responded to two Turkish demands.
1- Take legal action against the U.S.-based Turkish Islamist preacher Fethullah Gülen, who is accused of masterminding the July 15, 2016, coup attempt in Turkey.
2- Stop cooperating with the Democratic Union Party (PYD) against the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) because the PYD is the Syria extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is designated as a terrorist group by the U.S. and others.
Turkish officials and civil society organizations also continue to tell Americans that strong anti-American feelings in Turkey were political; if policy were to change, feelings might soften as in the case of former President Bill Clinton, perhaps one of the most popular foreign leaders ever in Turkey.
But based on what Trump has been doing in his first week in power, it seems as if he doesn’t care about the rise of anti-Americanism, whether in Turkey or the rest of the world.
No American president could think of a more unsympathetic move than closing the U.S. borders to refugees from, and citizens of, seven countries: Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Sudan.
The justification is the fight against terrorism and moves to contain the fire where it started, even at the cost of the lives of civilians trying to escape from it, without even considering that the fires have grown as a by-product of U.S.-led military interventions in those countries.
A federal judge tried to limit the effects of the presidential order with limited success, yet as a demonstration of the existence of the separation of powers, the judiciary can resist the executive branch of the government in proper democracies.
That was after a move against Mexico, with Trump set to scrap existing trade agreements and claiming that the Mexican government should pay for the wall the U.S. has started to build along its border to stop immigration.
Trump has been attempting to change the DNA of the U.S. which was founded as an immigrant nation.
However, Trump demonstrates another truth: Too much power concentrated in the executive branch, or in one person’s hands, opens the way for excess, if not abuse.
Even in American democracy, which has been labeled as “advanced” with respect to many others in the world, a popularly elected leader can do such things that have the potential to polarize not only the citizens of his own country but other countries as well.
Carried away by the power of the ballot box, Trump is operating according to the “winner takes all” mentality, denouncing everyone, and depicting those from the media to the courts as an elitist minority trying to keep the will of people under tutelage by agitating the uneducated and jobless masses against them.
It may not take that long for Trump to treat peaceful demonstrators as terrorists.
Trump’s first moves caused concern about the future items on his to-do list, which triggered a debate within the U.S. about the use of executive power.
There is an example in near American history. When Franklin Roosevelt was elected as president for the fourth time, touching off worries about presidents being elected for life, it was Congress which intervened and limited the duration to two terms. That was made possible thanks to the separation of powers in government.
These developments have been occurring in the U.S. when Turkey is on the threshold of a major system change.
In a referendum scheduled for April, the Turkish people will vote on whether to shift to an executive presidential system in which all the executive power will be concentrated in the president’s hands, in which the president’s influence on the judiciary will be boosted and in which the president will be able to chair his or her party, thus gaining more influence over parliament.
Erdoğan believes that this system will enable the elected leader and the government to take and implement decisions quickly, thus increasing the efficiency of the government to serve the people and deliver its promises better.
Despite the opposition’s criticisms that the already weak checks-and-balances mechanism in Turkey will be severely damaged, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) says people will just be able to punish the government in the next elections in four years’ time.
But Trump’s moves demonstrate to us and everyone else that quick actions might be understood to be based on the wrong designs or calculations and need to be corrected sooner than the next election.
The executive presidential system is your biggest political project so far, Mr. President. You have worked a lifetime for that and achieved the position you hold with popular support. And I understand that such a power might be irresistibly appealing for a strong politician like yourself. But considering the Trump case, please give a second thought to the constitutional shift draft before the arrow leaves the bow for the sake of the people and the country at this very critical stage of world politics.