Who will run Turkey after the presidential elections?

Who will run Turkey after the presidential elections?

The ruling party is dedicated to make the presidential election in August, after which the country will have its first president elected by the public; more than an election for a new president.

It is almost certain that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will run for the presidential post, and on various occasions, senior Justice and Development Party (AKP) officials said Erdoğan’s election will be the first step toward a system change.

“We will elect Erdoğan to the presidential post in August, and come the 2015 general elections, the AK Parti will have enough parliamentary seats to change the Constitution and allow
Mr. Erdoğan to serve his nation until 2023,” Mehmet Ali Şahin, deputy leader of the AKP, said last weekend.

Erdoğan, and some members of the AKP, want to change the parliamentary system to a presidential one, arguing a president elected by popular vote and a prime minister who also has electoral support will be at odds, creating a crisis atop the state. The AKP offered the system change to a four-party joint panel that worked on a new charter until last year, but failed to convince other parties.

The prime minister said earlier that he would “use all constitutional powers” if elected president, sending the message that he will not be a “protocol president.”

In such situation, a Reuters report yesterday said Erdoğan would form a “council” in the presidential palace to oversee the government’s responsibilities.

“They will work with Erdoğan on important subjects in the presidential palace. You could call them wise men, an advisory council, a shadow cabinet,” the report quoted an unnamed senior AKP figure. The board will effectively relegate some ministries to technical and bureaucratic roles, taking the lead in the energy policy, the Kurdish peace process and elements of foreign policy, according to the report.

The main debate in the AKP is for the individual to replace Erdoğan if he is elected president. Based on the report, we can say he is warm to the idea of a “puppet prime minister” that will be willing to leave the decisions on key issues to Erdoğan.

But of course, all these plans are being prepared in the case of Erdoğan’s presidency. What if the prime minister loses in the August election? What if a candidate supported by the opposition parties becomes Turkey’s first president elected by the people?

The country’s president already has very broad authority over the administration stemming from the 1982 Constitution, many of which no president has exercised. For example, the president has the authority to call for a Cabinet meeting and chair it. The president’s approval is needed to appoint many posts, including the ministers.

The AKP already experienced working with a “difficult” president: During his term, President Ahmet Necdet Sezer vetoed many laws approved by Parliament and turned down some names as ministers openly criticized some government moves. And he did all these although he was elected by Parliament before the AKP came to power. It was not until 2007, when President Abdullah Gül took over the presidency, the government could push laws that made fundamental changes, such as the education reform and the judicial reform.

A president with the support of the majority of the Turkish public will have the potential to turn Prime Minister Erdoğan’s life into a nightmare and justify his actions with “the national will.” He may even tell Erdoğan to “come to the ballot box if you have complaints.”

If Erdoğan is elected president, Turkey will move further on the path of one-man rule. If an opposition candidate wins, there will likely be a major rift between the government and the president and hence, a crisis in the regime.

After the presidential elections, Turkey can be anything but boring.