Will President Erdoğan instruct the governor?
The debate that erupted over the Republic Day celebrations in Ankara should most probably have demonstrated to everyone how jealous Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan can be when it comes to sharing his powers.
The prime minister proved in an obvious and harsh manner that if needs be he would not even refrain from taking President Abdullah Gül on publicly.
This debate has also dramatically confirmed that Erdoğan is interpreting the limits of powers granted to the president in the current constitution very narrowly.
The exchange of messages we have witnessed at the top of the state is in a way the sign of what kind of powerlessness awaits Erdoğan in the high-ceilinged office of the Çankaya Presidential Mansion in 2014 if he ascends there without changing the constitution. In this event, even if Erdoğan pushes Gül out of the political equation and makes a friend of his who would follow his advice sit in the seat of the prime ministry, this political achievement, in the final analysis, would not change the fact that powers would still be under the prime minister’s responsibility.
If Erdoğan is a leader who stands behind his words, then when he is elected president he will be obliged not to exceed his jurisdiction, the boundaries of which he has created himself. In this context, for example, he would be obliged not to phone the Ankara Governor for the removal of police barricades during a demonstration in Ankara.
When the suit does not fit
The question that constitutes the key point about the entire business lies right there. Is the Recep Tayyip Erdoğan we know – within the framework of the current constitution – a politician who would fit into the tight suit of the presidency?
If he cannot change the constitution, he would have to sit in this tight suit with restricted mobility and will probably be unhappy. Because he tends to use power as a result of his character, he would act with his reflexes and the suit would probably burst at the seams.
In this scenario, Erdoğan may try to rule Turkey from Çankaya with the political strength afforded by the high ratio of votes won in the presidential elections and with a pliant and obedient prime minister. This is what former President Turgut Özal initially tried to do during his rule in Çankaya.
However, when the warnings Erdoğan directed at the beginning of the week to the presidential office - which Gül now occupies - are remembered, then he, in this case, would be in huge contradiction with himself.
In addition, such a style of management could also half-open the door to a serious constitutional crisis, with objections to him exercising power that he is not authorized to.
Erdoğan’s twilight zone
As can be seen, everything comes down to the question of whether or not the powers of the president will change before 2014. This question constitutes the biggest insecurity today in terms of the future of Prime Minister Erdoğan’s political career.
Erdoğan sees his ascent to Çankaya in 2014 as a bird in the hand, but once he steps inside the presidential mansion he does not know how much power he will have or where the boundaries of his rule and his jurisdiction stand.
Probably, the happiness he felt on the morning of June 12, 2011 due to his party’s 50 percent election victory was mixed with the disappointment he experienced that the number of seats his party won in Parliament fell short of the 330 threshold needed to allow for a constitutional change referendum.
The only valid exit strategy ahead of the prime minister is to try to change the constitution either by transferring deputies from other parties or probably by attempting to cooperate with the MHP.
If he cannot achieve that, reaching the phone to call the Ankara Governor from the Çankaya Mansion will be troublesome.