Could Erdoğan postpone his presidency plans to 2015?
Although there is still one and a half year left until the presidential elections in August 2014, the bets on who will win have already been closed.
If he stands as a candidate, current Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is sure to become Turkey’s 12th president. However, it is still unclear to what extent his authorities in the presidential seat will be extended.
The answer to this question depends on whether Erdoğan will successfully achieve his plan to take over the presidency with extended authorities. The extension of authorities is a matter directly related to the numbers in Parliament. It seems impossible for Erdoğan to receive the support of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) for a constitutional change that would extend the president’s authority in a way resembling a presidential regime.
This being the case, the Prime Minister would be required to effect the constitutional change through a referendum, and for that he has to find at least 330 deputies in the Parliament.
However, there are currently 325 Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputies in Parliament.
It should also be kept in mind that there are a number of deputies within the AKP who do not favor the presidential model. Erdoğan has to take this into account. Still, when we look at the possibilities in theory, and assume a scenario in which the AKP group gives full support, there is a theoretical option for the party to exceed the 330 person threshold through covert support in secret ballots, or for the transferring of deputies in return for certain promises.
Turkish political history has a lot of experience in such methods. However, this experience is built up by methods that are not morally approved by public conscience and represents the political style of older generations. We don’t think Erdoğan would want to follow such a path.
Another scenario, which is more applicable, is Erdoğan allying with the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). The BDP’s 29 deputies may both create a chance for AKP to pass the threshold of 330 and compensate for those in the AKP who do not favor the presidential system. In a theoretical perspective, this option seems a practical way for Erdoğan to guarantee the presidential model, which is his greatest political aim.
However, the things that look practical in theory and the requirements of politics do not always coincide. At this point, many questions could be brought to the agenda. First of all, the BDP cannot be taken for granted when its approach to democracy is considered. Moreover, in such an alliance, Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), must also be taken into account.
Another problem for Erdoğan is the political burden he would face if he opened the paths to the presidency with the BDP’s key. A possible Constitution formed by the AKP-BDP alliance would not represent a wide consensus in society. Such a trial may not make any contribution to social peace, and may encourage the polarization of the country even further.
If Erdoğan does not want to take the risks of these options, he would have to be content with the presidential authorities determined by the 1982 Constitution.
So, with the political power he gains as a result of having a high rate of votes in the elections, he may want to establish a strong presidential model by reinterpreting the authorities in the 1982 Constitution to their maximum limit.
An ideal game plan for him may be to extend his authority after taking over the presidential seat. If the AKP enters Parliament with a majority exceeding the 330 threshold in the general election of 2015 – or in an early election that held in Fall 2014 - the presidential model that Erdoğan desires could go into effect through a referendum.
In such a case, Erdoğan may strip himself off the presidential outfit that he thinks would be much too tight to him in terms off administration, and instead take on a new presidential costume entirely designed by himself, in which he could move more easily.
However, if the number of his party’s seats in Parliament remains fewer than 330, all these accounts would be in vain. Plus, current President Abdullah Gül is also a part of this equation. I will explore how Gül will influence the accounts in a later article.