Erdoğan’s 'regime change' and Bonaparte
“This is a de facto change in the system of administration,” Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan said over the weekend in his Black Sea hometown of Rize; “What is needed now is to make it clear [meaning official] with a new constitution.”
He was talking about his position as the first president of Turkey elected by a popular vote instead of a parliamentary vote. That was only a day after Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu declared on Aug. 13 that a coalition between his Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) and the Republican People’s Party (CHP) was not possible and the only option which remained was another election after the one on June 7.
Erdoğan’s words were in a way the start of his campaign for the next election, despite the fact neither its presence nor the date were certain yet. And despite the fact Turkey will have to go to another election because parliament could not produce a new government, Erdoğan set the scene of the election as shifting into a presidential system, not having a new government within the current parliamentary one.
But that was exactly what he did before the June 7 election, derailing the target from being a new parliament and government to a shift to a strong presidential system in which he could use entire executive power. The result was not close to the constitutional majority, neither to pass it in parliament nor take it to a referendum; worse than that, the AK Parti lost its parliamentary majority. Now Erdoğan wants to try his chance once again by in a way asking the opposition to give in to this fact of life (the de facto regime change) and adopt a constitution accordingly.
The opposition strongly reacted to that.
Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) - who is expected to talk with PM Davutoğlu on Aug. 17 - asked ironically whether, “There was a coup which they were not aware of.”
Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu of the CHP slammed Erdoğan for “confessing a coup” against the parliamentary regime in Turkey.
The AK Parti answers are ready for those: This is total ignorance by the opposition since coups are not possible through votes.
Well, there has been a known example in modern history, though not exactly under the identical conditions in today’s Turkey, where a coup and a regime change were possible through a vote.
That was by Louis Bonaparte in 19th century France. Being the nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, he had been elected president in 1848 when the regimes of the entire European continent were trembling with revolutions. He placed names close to him in key places of the bureaucracy and the military. And towards the end of his four-year term he wanted to change the constitution in order to be able to get elected again. But when he couldn’t find the parliamentary majority to do that he abolished the parliament and forced two consecutive referenda, first to have a new constitution and then to get himself announced as the emperor; a return to empire. Only republicans attempted to resist that, but their presence in the parliament was not enough. Louis Bonaparte, or Napoleon the Third as he would like to be called, dragged the country into a war with Prussia and himself to exile in the U.K. until the end of his life.
The term “Bonapartism” describes a situation where neither the ruling party nor the opponents have the parliamentary majority but the ruling party keeps its rule through its presence in the bureaucracy and military. Bonaparte maintained that by a coup to the system where he was the elected president already.
As told above, the circumstances of 19th century France and 21st century Turkey could be totally different, but there is such a case.
Is Erdoğan too naive to expect the opposition parties to vote for his de facto regime change by approving a constitution or too focused on his target and so misjudging the circumstances? Can there be a third option, that he is actually trying to put pressure on Davutoğlu for some kind of scenario - that we are not aware of yet - to push the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) below the 10 percent threshold, which Erdoğan sees as the main reason blocking his way to a strong presidential model? But let’s not get into conspiracy theories now and try to observe what will happen this week.