The decree that relieved Turkish PM Yıldırım
A new state of emergency decree, numbered 694 and issued on Aug. 25, rendered Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency (MİT) compatible with the “presidential system,” which the country will officially transition to in 2019.
The new decree brought the undersecretary of MİT under the authority of the president. As a result, the MİT undersecretary will be subject to the president’s approval in every legal process.
Until the decree, the MİT undersecretary had been under the authority of the prime minister and was responsible to the Prime Minister’s Office. The undersecretary was also given approval to conduct investigations and testify in court by the prime minister.
Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım was asked about the decree on Aug. 25. His first response was that “there is no goodwill in interpreting this issue as a result of mistrust in the prime minister.” He then said the following: “We have no problem with our president or our institutions. We are working very harmoniously. Just because [the MİT] is now under the authority of the president does not mean that [the MİT] does not have relations with the Prime Minister’s Office or the government. It is still obligated to report all of its activities to the government. This change only involves cases about the appointment and dismissal of the MİT undersecretary.”
Yıldırım also stressed that the change was compatible with the new system.
The following can be deduced from his statement, which perfectly summarized the new hierarchical structure of the MİT:
- The MİT will continue to provide intelligence coordination and report the intelligence it has collected to the government and the General Staff, as it did in the past.
- Every legal process concerning the MİT undersecretary (investigations, summoning for testimony, appointment, and dismissal) can only be commenced with the approval of the president.
- The tension between Prime Minister Yıldırım and MİT Undersecretary Hakan Fidan has heightened since the July 15, 2016 coup attempt.
Yıldırım first revealed this tension on Aug. 3, 2016 when he said the following about the communication traffic between the MİT and the General Staff after a major went to the MİT and gave information about unplanned activities in some military bases on the night of the coup attempt.
“I asked the MİT undersecretary about this. I said: ‘How could this happen? The prime minister does not know. The president does not know. It is natural for the Chief of the General Staff to know, but you must also tell the prime minister because you are responsible to the prime minister, you are under the prime minister’s authority.’ Of course, he could not answer. To tell the truth, he couldn’t say anything at all,” he said.
Yıldırım also made some revealing statements on the first anniversary of the coup attempt.
“We did not receive information [about unplanned activities at military bases], neither me nor the president. The undersecretary [Fidan] did not tell us at the time. He did not say anything about the coup attempt either. I said to him: ‘A coup is taking place, what are you doing?’ He said to me: ‘No, nothing is happening. We are working as usual.’ But something different was going on,” he said.
After remarking on weaknesses in the intelligence system on July 15, 2016, Yıldırım faced questions from the opposition and even from some of journalists at pro-Justice and Development Party (AKP) newspapers about why he had not dismissed Fidan, who was under Yıldırım’s authority until the recent state of emergency decree.
Those asking this question already knew that the prime minister would never take a step in defiance of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan by dismissing Fidan. The prime minister would not take the issue to the level of “either him or me.”
The state of emergency decree law, numbered 694, has made the intelligence system ready for 2019 in terms of the MİT. From Yıldırım’s perspective, meanwhile, it has relieved a certain amount of opposition pressure on him.