President Gül and Prime Minister Erdoğan are seen together in this file photo. There has been much speculation about potential tension between the two, particularly with regard to possible moves to change Turkey to a presidential political system. DHA photo
The Gezi Park demonstrations may prove to be a milestone in Turkish politics, with all the scenarios made for the 2014 process being revised. People in Ankara
are trying to estimate how this youth resistance movement will be reflected in the upcoming elections.
The focus of these scenarios is Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
and his plans to be the president in 2014. Some of the questions on minds include the following:
Will the ruling party make a change to its plans regarding local and presidential elections? Will it keep insisting on the new presidential model or the president belonging to a political party? Or will the prime minister want to be the president with the current presidential authorities? Could a new Constitution be made under such conditions? Could a constitutional package including the new presidential system be approved in elections? At that point, will Abdullah Gül want a second term or try to chair the Justice and Development Party (AKP) again?
In the AKP, all the calculations before the Gezi Park protests were made focusing on Erdoğan. The first target was introducing a new presidential system in the constitutional process and making Erdoğan the new president. This plan did not include current President Abdullah Gül, who gained the right to be elected for a second term with a decision of the Constitutional Court.
In case the new presidential system cannot be implemented, the ruling party was planning to propose another alternative, which is a model suggesting that the president can belong to a political party. To introduce the system, the Constitution would be changed with a limited package. This plan did not include Gül, either. And there were no hints about what Gül would do in that situation. According to that scenario, Erdoğan would be elected in the first round and take his presidential seat in August 2014 as a president belonging to a party.
He would then assign one of his reliable colleagues to chair the party (Mehmet Ali Şahin and Binali Yıldırım were suggested for that), determine the list of deputies for 2015 general elections by himself, and keep ruling the party from his presidential seat. The plan also included passing to the new presidential system by changing the Constitution according to the number of seats after the elections.
If the “partisan president” model were not put into practice, Erdoğan would still be president under the current conditions, and force introducing the new system with the current presidential authorities after elections.
The comments suggesting that such plans are slightly possible after Gezi Park demonstrations are being whispered in the corridors. While it was underlined that the brand new Constitution possibility has decreased even more, a limited change would depend on the content of the package and society’s reaction to it.
Both the ruling party and the opposition now think that Gül’s role has become more prominent for the 2014 plans. Since Gül shows an embracing approach, positive attitudes and underlined the importance of democracy during the protests, it is thought that he will take an active role in the 2014 process. The possibility of changing the presidential plans, which had been so far made without taking Gül into consideration, increased with this political milestone. So, a model which was often expressed before but not included in the AKP’s 2014 plans for a long time was revived again: the Putin-Medvedev model.
This model is based on Erdoğan’s taking the presidential seat and Gül’s becoming the chairman of the AKP. This scenario was abandoned with Erdoğan’s attempts to solve the Kurdish issue. All the calculations were made on models in which Gül’s name was not mentioned. Erdoğan would either take the presidential seat with the new presidential authorities or keep ruling the country with increased authorities.
After the Gezi Park demonstrations, the politics turned back to the scenarios suggesting a seat exchange between these two figures. This scenario is coming to prominence within the AKP. Of course the picture in the 2014 local elections process and the rate of votes the AKP will receive in this election will determine whether this scenario would be implemented or not. Despite that, the details of this scenario have already been expressed now.
‘LEFT WING’ FORCES RESIGNATIONS
Gezi Park resistance has led to different stances within the AKP. Former Culture Minister Ertuğrul Günay and his close friends Erdal Kalkan and İbrahim Yiğit were regarded as the “left wing” of the AKP. These names reacted against the Artillery Barracks plan and demanded the preservation of the Park. Are these names forcing some resignations? According to my observations, Günay and his friends are worried about Erdoğan’s attitude, which could be seen as an “intervention in lifestyles.” They announced that they would not resign, but if the causes of the Gezi Park resistance are not revised in the AKP, resignations might be inevitable in future.
SEARCH FOR BASIS OF PLEBISCITE
Erdoğan announced that a plebiscite could be held regarding Gezi Park. According to Turkish law and legislation, a referendum can be held only for constitutional reforms. An article in the Municipalities Law allows local administrations to conduct surveys. However, it does not have a legal ground and Supreme Committee of Elections does not recognize this survey. So, there is ongoing work regarding it within the AKP. If Erdoğan gives consent, a legal regulation allowing plebiscites on other subjects might be brought to Parliament in coming days.