Advisor denies ‘Presidential Cabinet by Erdoğan’ claims

Advisor denies ‘Presidential Cabinet by Erdoğan’ claims

One of the most debated issues regarding Turkish Prime Minister and now President-elect Tayyip Erdoğan’s upcoming term as president surrounds his ruling style. Throughout the election campaign, he said he was to use his presidential powers extensively, unlike previous presidents.

The problem sources from the Turkish Constitution, which was approved through a referendum under military rule in 1982, right after the Sept. 12 coup of 1980. Article 8 of the Constitution divides executive power between the president and the board of ministers (ie. Cabinet), while Article 104 of the Constitution states that the president can call the Cabinet for a meeting and chair it whenever he thinks necessary. 

So far, no president has made use of that power, in order not to cause any tension between the presidency and the government. Or, one could say “additional tension,” considering a number of crises that have taken place with different governments since it became a political custom.

However, Erdoğan said from day one that he would make use of those powers, and ultimately managed to get nearly 52 percent of the votes, winning the presidency in the first round of voting. “New Turkey will have new customs,” he reportedly told MPs of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) regarding his term, which will start on Aug. 28.

There are now a number of claims in the political backstage about the new presidential style he could adopt. According to some, Erdoğan will use his board of advisors while in the presidential office as a sort of Cabinet, in order to form decisions, after which the board of ministers - chaired by the prime minister - will implement them as official decisions. In practice, that would a sort of semi-presidential model without changing the Constitution.

I asked about these claims to Yalçın Akdoğan, who is the chief political advisor to Erdoğan and likely to take an influential position in the new system. Here is what he said:

“There is no such thought as a separate Cabinet within the presidency; there cannot be. It is natural to have advisors to president, but it is out of the question to assume that advisors would actually rule the country with the Cabinet as a kind of showpiece. Is it not a fact that previous presidents have so far invited related ministers to [the presidential palace] Çankaya to consult with them on issues that they thought relevant? The prime minister has already announced that he will stay within the constitutional limits during his presidency. 

“The only difference now, the single new parameter in the system, is that a president has been elected by popular vote, and has expressed numerous times that he will work more closely with the Cabinet [government]. According to the Constitution, the president is the head of the executive branch. The president can chair the Cabinet whenever he considers it necessary. He can always say whatever he has to say there in the Cabinet meetings. So, there is no need for the advisors who will work in the presidential office to act as a separate Cabinet there. These claims are all just efforts to pump up concerns [in the public] through speculations.”