Party democracy or people’s democracy

Party democracy or people’s democracy

It looks as if the presidential system and the writing of a civilian constitution will be at the top of the agenda in the upcoming period.

Indeed, it will be discussed. Of course, different views and systems based on needs will be suggested. Of course, everybody will express their ideas. I am on the side of the presidential system; the closest to me is a single-member constituency. 

Regardless of whichever system is chosen, I insist on these basic things: In the current system that seems like a parliamentarian system, the parliament actually does not have a huge effect because, first of all, the party leader makes the deputy lists. In other words, the voter does not even know the deputy candidate he or she is voting for. The voter looks at the party and the leader. Democracy does not become local. 

The second reason is that since the deputy is included on the list based on the party leader, the deputy does whatever the leader wants in parliament, meaning it does not function independently.  The deputy does not feel responsible to the voter who voted for him/her but to the leader who put him/her in the top spots of the list. 

Third, the voter votes without knowing the deputy of the constituency they reside in. 

Fourth, the deputy cannot act independently because they are selected by the headquarters. 
Fifth, according to the law on political parties, the headquarters selects the delegates, while the delegates select the leaders, meaning the parties become slow with non-changing staff and that politics and interests intermingle. 

Sixth, because of all these reasons, even though our system looks like a parliamentarian system, it is actually a “mutant” with a chaotic structure. 

How should it be? 

Regardless of the system, deputies should first be freed from the leaders’ absolute decisions. Second, the citizen should know who they are electing and vote accordingly. The deputy should be responsible to the nation, not to the leader. Third, ministerial positions should not be power-generating positions, they should be service networks generating services. Presidential debates should be freed from being personal. It is a huge mistake to portray the presidential system debates as President Tayyip Erdoğan’s personal wish. This attitude does not contribute to a positive outcome to the debates, and Turkey should clarify this administrative issue now. 

In every case, auditability and the separation of powers should be essential. The debates on the presidential system and the new constitution should be conducted on a positive basis and through dialogue among political parties. 

The years with Özal 

If you take a look at our democratic past, you will that Turkey made all its significant leaps during single-party administrations. People recognized this and opted for this choice in the Nov. 1 election.  

These debates took me back to the years of President Turgut Özal. The late Özal would frequently open discussion on the presidential system. Moreover, he said once, “Even a federation can be discussed.” Since our culture of debate is not well-developed, he was attacked from certain segments immediately. But Turkey is past those days now. 

Özal argued that a transfer to the presidential system should be made. During a chat at the İzmir Efes Hotel, he said: “The world is developing at a fast pace. The path to keep up with that pace is the presidential or semi-presidential system.”

In those years, Özal’s daring and revolutionary character constituted problems for the government – in foreign policy issues such as the Gulf War and in economic decisions. For this reason, the Chief of General Staff resigned, while Özal removed Defense Minister Hüsnü Doğan. 

This power crisis increased during the presidency of Özal and the prime ministry of Süleyman Demirel. Several appointments and critical postings were kept at the office of the president, meaning bureaucracy was conducted through acting officers. There was a potential authority issue between the government and the president under the constitution. 

At this moment, Erdoğan and Davutoğlu are in accord and function respecting each other, but this issue is beyond persons and parties. Moreover, the president is elected by popular vote today. Tomorrow, when there is a government change, this crisis of authority may escalate and block Turkey. Because of all these reasons, Turkey now absolutely needs a civilian constitution and the presidential system. It will of course be discussed what kind of a system this will be. The people will find the correct one again in the end. 

My preference is the democracy of the people instead of the party democracy.