Turkey may start to see Erdoğan’s extra powers

Turkey may start to see Erdoğan’s extra powers

On Aug. 20, in an 11th hour effort, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu made a call to the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) to see if they would take part in an election government with his Justice and Development Party (AK Parti).

“Let’s not leave the decision to take Turkey to a re-election to President Tayyip Erdoğan. Let’s take an early election decision in parliament,” Davutoğlu said. He added that if they refused to take part in such a formula, forcing an election government to be formed with the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), it would be the responsibility of the CHP and the MHP.

Both the CHP and the MHP had already turned down taking part in an election government. But there was still time for a review, as the 45-day deadline for the establishment of a government was not due to expire until Aug. 23.

A day after the 11th hour call, on Aug. 21, President Erdoğan made a clear statement to the cameras, which annulled what PM Davutoğlu had said. Erdoğan said that after this stage it was “impossible” for him to lose time, and after having a final consultation with Parliament Speaker İsmet Yılmaz on Monday (Aug. 24), he would use his constitutional power to take Turkey to a re-election on Nov. 1, as was suggested by the Supreme Election Board (YSK) a day before.

“I know my fields of authority as the president,” Erdoğan said. “And I’m in a position to use all of my powers to their full extent.”

If there are no changes in the situation, there will be two months and one week from today until the fresh election day. 

The reason why Erdoğan wants a re-election so much is his disillusion with the results of the June 7 election, when the AK Parti lost its parliamentary majority, meaning that Erdoğan would not be able to exercise extensive executive powers as if the country has shifted from the current parliamentary system to a presidential one through a change in the constitution. The AK Parti fell short because the HDP managed to cross the 10 percent election threshold to get into parliament and the MHP slightly increased its votes. Both of these carved into the vote base of the AK Parti, and the votes of both parties rose for the same reason: The government’s initiative to find a political solution to the Kurdish problem.

Erdoğan’s advisers thought that if the dialogue with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) via the HDP was dumped, it could attract back the Turkish nationalist votes that migrated to the MHP and also conservative Kurdish votes that migrated to HDP. The Kurdish “peace” process, as Erdoğan once used to call it, has thus been put in the “refrigerator,” as he himself has said since the June election. If the HDP could be pushed back below the 10 percent threshold again and the MHP could also be pushed lower, the AK Parti could secure a single-party government and guarantee that Erdoğan enjoys all executive powers. Thanks to the ground provided by the resumed attacks of the PKK, military operations have escalated and so has the tension, once again dragging Turkey into a mood of grief and pessimism.

Perhaps that was the reason why, when telling Davutoğlu and others not to bother with anything other than a re-election, Erdoğan also made strong remarks about crushing the “separatist terrorists” with the will of God.

That turns attention to what kind of extra powers Erdoğan could use during the two months and one week until the prospective Nov. 1 election.

Articles 91, 92, 104, 119, 120 and 121 of the constitution are crucial for the use of extraordinary powers. If the parliament is in recess or not working, as in the current case, the president, for example, can point to the worsening security situation and declare a state of emergency after a president-chaired cabinet meeting.

That would be subject to a change or cancellation by the parliament only after being published directly in the Official Gazette. If the parliament did not annul it, the president could issue “Emergency Decrees in Power of Law” (OKHK) in related fields of the State of Emergency (OHAL). The difference between the ordinary “Decrees in Power of Law” and the emergency ones are that the latter do not need parliamentary approval (and are only subject to cancelation by parliament). They are also not subject to judicial procedure, since the president cannot be tried at court for any crime other than treason.

The president even has the authority to declare war if the country is attacked when parliament is closed, which could also lead to the cancellation or postponement of elections.

None of this means that Erdoğan will definitely use all these powers during the limited period until the election. The situation in Turkey is not yet at those extremes, but it is good to know what exactly the powers of the president are in the event of emergencies that he decides on.