Discussing the system
Daily Hürriyet recently published the views of presidential adviser Mehmet Uçum in which he defended the new system.
Uçum is a lawyer who is very knowledgeable on issues of political systems.
Previously, the analysis of Hürriyet’s Bülent Sarıoğlu was published. You cannot see this kind of objectivity in the pro-government media.
Leaving aside different viewpoints, they don’t even publish the news about the opposition.
Yet in our age, the long-term success of a system depends on the fact that it is digested thoroughly in debates that attract wide participation and are endorsed by a crushing majority, as was said by Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım.
The constitution of Charles De Gaulle, which changed the system in France in 1958, was accepted by 80 percent, for instance.
Let’s look at what the PM said while arguing for a “yes” in the referendum: “From 1923 to our days, 65 governments were formed in 93 years; the average was not even 1.5 years. In the United States in 228 years, there have been 45 presidents.”
This is how it looks from the perspective of the government.
Yıldırım’s statement is of course true, but it has some shortcomings that could be misleading.
Instability, coups and stalemates are not only about the system. It is also about the level of development. In fact, there have been several coups in Latin American, Asian and African countries which are governed by the presidential system.
Obviously, the United States is very stable because the American system is based on liberal culture, lax party structure and a checks and balance mechanism which is highly efficient at the constitutional level. That’s why 45 presidents have changed in the course of 228 years without blood and conflict.
It was reported, for instance, that U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to block the entry of migrants into the country was objected to by half of the senators from his own party.
This is an example of the dimension of the checks-and-balances principle in terms of culture and lax party structure.
Can that be possible in our case? Has there been any primary in Justice and Development Party (AKP) or the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP)? And checks and balances are not limited to that alone.
In the U.S., people not only elect the president but also the vice president.
Another mechanism that prevents the president from dominating over the legislative is the bi-annual elections to renew one third of the legislative body.
In our case, our people are not given these two rights in the document that will be voted on in the referendum.
These two factors of checks and balances have nothing to do with the federal structure, as it can also exist in a unitary state. It should have been included in our case too.
In the United States, all the appointments made by the president, such as the candidates for the judges of the high court, depend on the approval of the Senate.
Each candidate is meticulously scrutinized in Senate committees. This is one of the most important mechanisms that strengthens the legislative against the president and establishes a check and balance between powers.
Yet in our case, no such authority is given to the Turkish National Grand Assembly for the appointments of the president.
It is obvious that a lot of shortcomings and problems can be seen when one looks from a different perspective. We should have talked about it in a more detailed way. At least let us talk about it freely during the referendum.