Erdoğan makes presidential intentions clearer

Erdoğan makes presidential intentions clearer

With the elections nearing, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has started to spell out more clearly the kind of presidential system he wants for Turkey. He says they are studying examples from the U.S. and France to Argentina, Mexico and Brazil. He nevertheless wants a system that is suited to Turkey’s “customs and traditions.”

He also says the bicameral system in the U.S., with a Congress made up of the House of Representatives and Senate which have powers over the president is not a good one and argues that this is too constricting.

Talking to reporters during his visit to Kazakhstan, Erdoğan expressed particular aversion to the idea of a House of Representatives that is elected every two years, saying President Barack Obama would have had a freer hand to implement his policies if this was not the case.

“But what happened? The race changes every two years. Now because of this change the Republicans have gained the majority there. The control mechanism in the U.S. has changed all of a sudden” Erdoğan said.
Such a system is clearly not what he wants although he argues the system he proposes will have its own system of checks and balances. He indicates that a unicameral parliament with elected deputies will provide this. 

In the same breath, however, he indicates that the system he wants requires a majority in parliament that favors the president if it is to work properly, and points to problems that will arise if this is not the case.

“If the majority in parliament is not on your side it means there is the possibility that you will always face obstacles” Erdoğan said, arguing that even when the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had over 330 deputies, the 220 deputies the opposition had in parliament hindered the government. 

These remarks show that he does not really want a parliament which controls the president in any way, but one that merely acts as a rubber stamp. Everything Erdoğan says shows that he wants one-man rule.

This, according to him, is the system “suited to Turkey’s customs and traditions.” What he desires, in effect, is the kind of power that Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and İsmet İnönü after him enjoyed. 

The irony is that Erdoğan has a well-established track record of hitting at the system of Kemalist leadership as undemocratic, especially under İnönü, and calling this a “dictatorship.” 

Yet he wants the same for himself and expects us to believe that because he has been directly elected by the people he will remain democratic if such powers are given to him.  He conveniently overlooks the fact that his democratic credentials are already tarnished.

Not everyone in the AKP camp, however, is happy about Erdoğan’s ambitions. Former President Abdullah Gül, a founding member of the AKP and Erdoğan’s “fellow-traveler” in political terms, said not so long ago that if it was to be a presidential system for Turkey, this should not be a “Turkish-type” of system. He suggested that if anything this should resemble the U.S. system.

The bottom line is that Erdoğan’s ultimate intentions are increasingly transparent, and those who have serious doubts about the future of Turkish democracy if Erdoğan should gain the full reins of power are more than justifiably concerned.


The following sentence took place in my last piece “Remembering 1915”: "Eyes are now on President Barack Obama to see whether he will use the word “genocide” in his annual Armenian message. The chances are that he will, and if he does this will signal a fundamental change in policy toward a key ally."

This appears to have been inadvertently changed during the editing process prior to going to press and should have read as follows:  "Eyes are now on President Barack Obama to see if he will use “genocide” in his annual Armenian message. The chances are he will not because if he does this will signal a fundamental change in policy towards a key ally."