Old dish, old plates
If the presidential system discussion is nothing new, which it is, why all of a sudden when the world was entering into a mood of celebration because of the approaching Christmas and the new year, have Turks buried themselves in this stale discussion? Is it not a fact that the ruling Justice and Development Party is deficient some six seats to legislate on its own – without the need to go to a referendum – a constitutional amendment carrying Turkey to presidential governance? Can any of the other parties, including the Nationalist Movement Party (AKP), a party whose legendary founding leader Alparslan Turkeş was a diehard advocate of the presidential system, lend the AKP its precious support on this issue? No… Can the AKP engage in some sort of a bargain with the pro-separatist Peace and Democracy Party (BDP)? It better not; such a move would be suicidal.
Why then has the AKP rehashed this stale project? Well, the supreme master, the tall, bold, bald and ever-angry boss of the AKP desperately wants to become the elected monarch and that’s the only way he believes he could achieve it. Why would he and his much-esteemed wife suffer another term of Abdullah Gül and his wife, Hayrünnisa Gül, at the presidency? Is it not a Turkish saying that whoever carries the drum must be able to use the drumstick as well?
For a change, Bekir Bozdağ, the deputy chairman of the AKP, was perfectly yet partially right in his statement. Naturally for understandable reasons Bozdağ was promoting the idea that Turkey is compelled to a presidential system because back in 2007 Parliament legislated a constitutional amendment calling for the popular election of the president. If the president is elected directly, then the president would be more powerful than the premier and Turkey would de facto move to a semi-presidential system. The end result of this thinking is correct; the reasoning is wrong. It was the AKP that in the first place legislated the constitutional amendment allowing popular election of the president, why this complaint now? The one who wants to steal the minaret prepares the package beforehand. This was the AKP’s intention right from the beginning because its ultimate leader has had that desperate aspiration.
But, in any case, even if the president is not popularly elected, like the beginning period of the republic when Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was the president, and when presidential powers were far less than those provided by the 1982 Constitution, Turkey would go back to an undeclared presidential (not semi-presidential) governance if a strong leader with such a high degree of absolute leadership aspirations, like the current premier, is elevated to that post.
Many people might object and say no such thing happened when the late Turgut Özal or, may he live long, Süleyman Demirel were tenants of the presidential residence. Right, but both those two leaders did not have parties behind them with such huge parliamentary strength, nor did they have modern technological devices to shape the public perception in any fashion they would like.
Do you remember the Brunei sultanate? That tiny state where on the way back from Indonesia Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had briefly escaped to avoid attending the commemoration of Atatürk? With or without a constitutional amendment carrying Turkey to presidential governance, Erdoğan getting elected to the presidency would de facto mean the Turkish president acquiring such powers that only perhaps the Brunei sultan might have.