Turkish voters want new charter, but not a presidential system

Turkish voters want new charter, but not a presidential system

A survey by Koç University in Istanbul made public on May 6 revealed that the public trust for fair elections in Turkey has declined, as the country heads toward one of the most critical elections in decades on June 7.

The survey, carried out with the support of the Open Society Foundation and Ohio State University over the last two months across Turkey, shows that only 25 percent think the elections will be totally fair. You can read the details in our headline story.

The survey also reveals some interesting details about President Tayyip Erdoğan’s desire to shift the system from the current parliamentary one to a strong presidential one through a new constitution after the elections, if the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) is able to secure a large enough majority to make such a change. 

According to the survey, 60 percent of the people think a brand new constitution is needed for Turkey, a level of support that was 49 percent in 2011, when the last parliamentary elections were held.

It is more interesting to see that the support for a brand new constitution among the AK Parti and its two main opponents - the social democratic main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) - is almost the same, at around 60 percent. The support among supporters of the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) is much higher, near 80 percent.

But when it comes to the question of whether voters want a strong president who can disperse parliament at will, call off elections, and take and implement decisions quickly (as the survey was worded in the poll), 65 percent said “No” and 25 percent said “Yes.” The rest had no answer or no view on it.

According to the survey, the overall percentage of those who say that a strong presidential system would be better for Turkey is just 43 percent. Even some 21 percent of AK Parti voters would say “No” to shifting from a parliamentary system to a presidential one, a rate that skyrockets to 77 percent among CHP supporters and 64 percent among MHP supporters. However, 31 percent of HDP supporters would approve of a presidential system, the second highest percentage, while 38 percent said they were absolutely against it. 

Another interesting indication about constitutional reform is that 66 percent of people, according to the Koç survey, think a new constitution should be written through a compromise between the government and the opposition. Only 18 percent think the majority should decide on this. Even in the AK Parti, the percentage of those who think a new constitution should be written by the government and opposition together is 50 percent.

Based on this survey, it can be concluded that a majority of people in Turkey want a new constitution to be written, but as a joint effort by the government and the opposition. As for shifting to a presidential system, this is not something that most people are in favor of - perhaps because Erdoğan is currently pressing very hard for it.