Erdoğan to press hard for presidency in 2016
The last week of 2015 witnessed how the discussions have focused again on the adoption of the presidential system as part of the new constitution although Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu did not seem very willing to place it on the top of his immediate agenda. In statements nearly two weeks ago, Davutoğlu downplayed the place of the presidential system in his agenda as he announced he was much more concerned about the developments in Southeast Anatolia and the comfort and welfare of the Turkish people.
Things, however, have drastically changed in the last week as both President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Davutoğlu have issued strong messages to the Turkish public about the need to change the system into a presidential one in a bid to attain the 2023 goals of the Turkish Republic. For many in Ankara, this was a result of an Erdoğan-Davutoğlu meeting on Dec. 27, 2015, in Istanbul that lasted around two hours.
It was argued in some reports that Erdoğan wanted Davutoğlu to highlight this issue in his public statements as well as during his meetings with opposition parties where he would seek support for the new constitution.
Thus, Davutoğlu’s meeting with Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), on Dec. 30 was pre-occupied with this issue as the prime minister sought the main opposition’s support to launch a general debate on the administrative system. Kılıçdaroğlu made clear that the CHP’s position was to correct malfunctioning parts of the parliamentary system, and they were yet to hear the details of the presidential model the ruling party has in mind. The same position has also been embraced by the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), whose leader Devlet Bahçeli will meet Davutoğlu on Jan. 4.
The likely scenario is that a commission tasked with rewriting the charter will be revived with the participation of the four political parties represented in parliament with a certain mandate. The commission that was formed in the previous parliament agreed on around 60 articles with the exception of the ones to describe the executive and judicial power.
In parallel to Davutoğlu’s efforts to create a political ground for renewing the constitution with a presidential system, Erdoğan is seemingly rolling up his sleeves to this end but from another perspective.
Speaking to reporters upon returning from Saudi Arabia, Erdoğan hinted that his presidency will play a central role in the process of renewing the constitution and, therefore, helping implement the presidential system. Erdoğan proposed “conference calls” with as many people as possible to provide strong ground for “societal agreement” and comprehensive meetings at the presidential palace with the participation of academics, experts and journalists to discuss all of these issues in-depth.
So, on the one hand, the presidency will work at the expert level to create a perception on the presidential system and, on the other, will seek to build a social contract on the need to change the system. There is no doubt that he will play a central role in diffusing the results of these efforts through his very frequent public statements.
According to Erdoğan, the citizens chosen for the conference call will number more than 500,000, thus creating a “very significant ground for the composing of a constitution on which a societal agreement could be ensured.”
The only problem for the ruling party is that its majority in parliament does not suffice to introduce a constitutional amendment without the support of other opposition parties. This was the reason why earlier attempts to renew the constitution failed, too. The political system in Turkey and Erdoğan will have to decide this time whether they will sacrifice the chance to renew the constitution with a pro-freedom and libertarian one while running after a change in the administrative system.