Erdoğan’s problem is with democracy

Erdoğan’s problem is with democracy

The division of political powers between the legislature, executive and judiciary lies at the very core of democracy. It is this system under which the politically and ideologically motivated ambitions of politicians are checked. It is also this system that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is increasingly annoyed about, even as he claims to be bringing “advanced democracy” to this country.

Clearly his notion of plain democracy, let alone an advanced one, differs radically from the developed world’s definition of this system of government. One cannot help but be reminded that in his political prime, he likened democracy to a train that merely takes one to one’s destination. Erdoğan is seen to be acting more and more in line with this notion.

His remarks during a public speech in Konya earlier this week, when he complained about an obstructive “bureaucratic oligarchy,” are just the latest indications of a worrying inclination on his part.
“You know this thing they call the division of powers; this turns up in front of you as an obstruction. The legislature, executive and judiciary in his country must consider the benefit of the nation first and then the benefit of the state,” Erdoğan said.

Erdoğan is clearly living with a burning desire to have a country free of any notion of democratic checks and balances. It was also noteworthy that he should have trashed the notion of a division of political power at a time when his party is trying to amend the Constitution in order to turn Turkey’s parliamentary system into a presidential one.

As the Turkish saying goes, even the deaf sultan knows by now that the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) plan is to have Erdoğan elected president in 2014 and ensure that he enjoys enhanced powers while in office.

Many, including President Abdullah Gül, have signaled that a presidential system is not suited for Turkey. Not everyone in the AKP is enamored of the idea either. There is nothing wrong, of course, in debating the pros and cons of such a system for Turkey, if the system being proposed is anything like the American or French systems, where the executive is kept under check by other branches of state.
But the system being tailored by the AKP is nothing like the American or French systems. Leading party figures have admitted that their aim is to have an executive that is unencumbered. Naturally enough, they sugar-coat their proposal by arguing that the citizenry will get better service as a result of a system that is not stymied by political, judicial or bureaucratic obstructions.

What the Erdoğan and the AKP basically want is a president that will have the sole privilege of deciding, without any obstacles from the judiciary or the legislature, what is best for the citizens of Turkey. One assumes, of course, that it will also be the office of the president, and not Parliament, which will hold the purse strings under the AKP’s proposed system.

In other words, Erdoğan wants the absolute powers that Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has given himself. But even Morsi is finding the going tough in a country where democracy has not flowered as of yet. One need not have too much imagination to consider the turmoil and instability that will be unleashed if Erdoğan tries to have his way in Turkey.

Erdoğan and his party must stop tampering with a democratic system that merely needs improvements, if their aim is not to turn Turkey into some kind of constitutional dictatorship, of course.
If, however, it is their “hidden agenda” – which in fact does not appear so hidden anymore – that is being promoted here, it is clear this will cause many headaches for a country that is already trying to cope with a host of ailments due to the shortcomings and deficiencies in its democracy.