Erdoğan reminds Davutoğlu of his powers

Erdoğan reminds Davutoğlu of his powers

Just as people began to talk about a power struggle between Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu in the final days of 2014, Erdoğan finished the debate like Alexander the Great cutting the Gordian knot.

The debate had started when former Transportation Minister Binali Yıldırım said in a TV interview that President Erdoğan is likely to chair a Cabinet meeting early in 2015.

Yıldırım is known to be in Erdoğan’s inner circle and his words have been interpreted by the media as meaning Erdoğan wanted to chair the first Cabinet meeting of 2015; since Cabinet meetings are usually on Mondays, Erdoğan was to chair the meeting on Jan. 5, journalists deduced.

Actually, Erdoğan had pledged during his election campaign for the presidency that he was not going to be like any other president in the past, and was determined to use all his Constitutional powers, including chairing Cabinet meetings.

The 1982 Turkish Constitution adopted after the military coup in 1980 gave extra powers to the president, which is very unusual for a parliamentarian system. It actually divides the executive power between the president and the Board of Ministers.

Yet no president has used that power so far, since it would curb the power image of the prime minister in the public’s eye, triggering an authority issue between them. Parliamentary Chairman Cemil Çiçek had warned in advance, even before Turkey adopted the popular vote for president instead of the former parliamentary vote, that it could cause problems within the executive mechanism.

But Erdoğan was quite straightforward in his targets; he was also clear that he favored a semi-presidential system with lesser checks-and-balances over the current pseudo-parliamentary one.
Yet when it was Yıldırım, not Erdoğan or Davutoğlu, who told the people that the President was going to chair a cabinet meeting soon, Davutoğlu was caught off guard a bit. He said during a TV interview on the night of Dec. 27 that the President could of course chair the Cabinet in extraordinary circumstances according to the Constitution, like during times of war, disasters, etcetera, but Davutoğlu underlined that there was no meeting planned for Jan. 5. That was an obvious show of irritation from Yıldırım’s statement. Davutoğlu was in a way asking Erdoğan through the media not to chair the meeting as early as January, while also trying to confirm what Yıldırım had said.

Erdoğan appeared before the cameras on Dec. 29 and gave a clear answer to a reporter’s question on the issue.

He was chosen as president by the people by saying that he was going to use those powers, and it is written in the Constitution that he could do so “at his will,” regardless of extraordinary circumstances. “I asked Yıldırım and he said he did not give a date for such a meeting,” the President said; he was speaking of a small interrogation into the subject which he carried out himself. Erdoğan also said that had spoken with Davutoğlu on that and told the PM that he was going to chair the Cabinet meeting on Jan. 19, not in the Prime Ministry building but in the new Presidential Palace in Beştepe, the much betoken “Ak Saray.”

Erdoğan’s remarks did not promise a very easy New Year for Davutoğlu, who faces, among other problems, general elections that are now only half a year away.