Presidential system not enough to lead to good governance

Presidential system not enough to lead to good governance

It’s perhaps a national malady of Turks: discussing the modal part of the issues without considering the substance. Here it goes for untimely erupted debate on replacing the parliamentary system with a presidential one. 

In today’s Turkey, the right question is not whether the presidential or existing parliamentary system best fits and responds the needs of the country. The right question, however, whether the fundamentals of good governance exist in Turkey and what should be done to make them function properly. 

The measure of a modern democracy is not under which system it’s being carried out (the highest level of European democracies are still practiced in monarchies) but whether it contains the fundamental characters of the principle of good governance. Be it a presidential or parliamentary system, it should be participatory, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective and efficient. It should follow rule of law and seek consensus. 

It’s a common and universal understanding that full or partial achievement to this point has a close correlation with the pace of development happening in countries both on national level and individual base. 

Let’s briefly analyze Turkey’s performance with regard to some of these fundamental characters of good governance. Take the rule of law, transparency and accountability as a whole as they are key requirements for a modern democracy, but which are doubtfully existent in today’s Turkey. Otherwise, this country would not rank in second place following Russia in the list of countries with the largest number of human rights violation cases open at the European Court of Human Rights. 

Years-long detention periods, open-ended investigations which keep hundreds of prominent figures from various segments of the society behind bars, could be perfectly counted among other evidence in this end. 

Or, in another actual issue, we will not seek justice from the UEFA on the ongoing nationwide match-fixing probe if we do not fail to respond to the need for justice under our own mechanisms. 
Good governance also requires assurances that the religious or ethnic rights of minorities are respected and that their voices are heard. Obviously, a change in the administrative system will not make the lives of minorities much better (without even mentioning the recent rhetoric of the prime minister on “single religion.”).

Coming to the core of the question, one can easily notice that what lies behind this discussion is not really aimed at achieving the good governance. It’s rather an issue of distribution of authority among the ruling elites. In short, it’s an issue of furnishing Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan with extensive power when he’s elected as the president in 2014. 

Adopting a presidential system will not make Turkey better governed if the aforementioned characteristics of a modern democracy are continued to be ignored.

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