Erdoğan launches fresh bid for presidential system: Early polls should not be ruled out

Erdoğan launches fresh bid for presidential system: Early polls should not be ruled out

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s one-hour long farewell statement on May 5 was very comprehensive in regards to highlight the main reasons behind his sudden leave as well as to give us clues about the shape and duty of the next government and his successor as chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and prime minister. 

Recalling that he became the prime minister late August 2014 after Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s election as president, Davutoğlu brought to our minds that Erdoğan handed the chairmanship of the AKP to him by insisting that he was not looking for a “caretaker premier,” meaning his successor would use his powers in the most direct way as suggested by the Turkish constitution and political traditions. “I followed this line and I have not been a caretaker prime minister,” Davutoğlu said on Thursday. 

One should understand that his successor will be a caretaker or, as some pro-government columnists describe, a coordinator prime minister who will act in full alignment with President Erdoğan without trying to introduce any new initiatives or ideas differing from those of the president. After this point, the identity of the new prime minister will have no significance: either it will be Erdoğan’s right arm man, Transportation Minister Binali Yıldırım, or his son-in-law, Energy Minister Berat Albayrak.  This will surely introduce a new era for Turkey and Turkish politics in which President Erdoğan’s one-man rule will be consolidated at the cost of eroding democratic norms and political traditions of the country. Along with the chairman of the AKP, Erdoğan will also roll up sleeves to reshuffle all senior party executives in order not to leave one single hole in his management. This will follow a new cabinet with the removal of some pro-Davutoğlu ministers, thus creating a solid governmental frontline in achieving Erdoğan’s goal of a complete system change.  

In his first public statement after Davutoğlu announced his decision to step down, Erdoğan underlined in bold words that his immediate agenda is to adopt a presidential system and therefore issued his instructions to the new government. “In order to avoid similar governance crisis, we need to immediately adopt the presidential system,” Erdoğan said, praising his role as the strong president in minimizing the effects of the system faults during two parliamentary elections in 2015. 

It’s also worthy to note that Erdoğan has begun his campaign for presidential system without losing even a single day, with predictions that he will further intensify it in the upcoming weeks.  

However, there are still uncertainties over how President Erdoğan and his AKP will achieve these high aims of the president. The party still lacks at least 13 seats to take a drafted constitution to referendum and it’s getting more unlikely for the AKP to get what it wants from the current composition of the parliament. 

Therefore, snap parliamentary elections late this summer or before the end of this year should not be ruled out. The ongoing heavy fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is believed to be helping the AKP keep its almost 50 percent vote while there are strong indications that the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) will risk not repeating its historic success by not passing the 10 percent threshold in a potential poll. In the meantime, there are assessments that the AKP would also benefit from ongoing in-house rift at the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) whose votes have tended to decrease in the recent months. 

Erdoğan made clear that he will use all and every means to institutionalize his de facto executive presidency in the next period, either by the current or next parliament. Amid increasing terror attacks by the PKK and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and under huge security challenges emanating from its failed southern neighboring states, Turkey will surely face much harder days ahead given its one-man rule’s single objective is nothing but to satisfy Erdoğan’s personal ambitions.