Shift to presidential system won’t end Turkey’s terror problem

Shift to presidential system won’t end Turkey’s terror problem

After two deadly suicide attacks in Istanbul and Kayseri on Dec. 10 and Dec. 17 respectively, which claimed the lives of dozens of young policemen and privates, a gunman assassinated Russian Ambassador to Ankara Andrey Karlov on Dec. 19. The attack stunned Turkey, Russia and the rest of the world.  

I learned about the loss of Ambassador Karlov with great sorrow. I have known him closely since his appointment to Ankara in mid-2013, and he presided over some difficult times in bilateral Turkey-Russia ties, particularly after the downing of the Russian jet in late 2015. He kept the doors of the embassy open to journalists, businessmen and others during his period in office and avoided further damages to ties. I will always remember him not only as a very good and professional ambassador, but someone with high human characteristics. 

Both Ankara and Moscow regard the incident as a provocation and have vowed to increase their level of cooperation against international terrorism, rather than breaking their relationship. This mutual understanding shows the success of Ambassador Karlov in helping to cement ties through strong and concrete bilateral and regional partnerships. 

But simply securing the Turkish-Russian relationship is not enough to soothe concerns. There are many questions that still need to be answered to find out who was really behind the assassination. How could this 22-year-old anti-riot police officer get information on Karlov’s attendance at the exhibition, although his participation at the event was only mad public to invitees? Why were the Turkish special forces not more careful when neutralizing the gunman, killing him at the scene along with his secrets? Only a further investigation will show the real picture behind the attack and will tell us more about its background. 

What measures will the government take to avoid future assassinations and future terror attacks? It’s very sad to see the continuation of terrorist acts across the entire country, producing ever more killed soldiers, police officers, civilians, etc. But we don’t hear any political or intellectual discussion on how to put a stop to terrorism in the country. 

Ever since President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared last year that “there is no Kurdish question, just a terrorism problem,” there has not been a single move or initiative to start a new political project to address the root causes of terror. The only project put forward is one amending the constitution to change Turkey’s political system to an executive presidency.     

In fact, on the day when Turkey bid its last farewell to Ambassador Karlov on Dec. 20 (in the absence of President Erdoğan and Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, who did not opt to postpone the opening ceremony of the Eurasian Tunnel in Istanbul), parliament formally began debating amendments to the constitution. 
Erdoğan and all ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) officials claim that a shift to an executive-presidency will “end the era of coalition governments,” (as if Turkey has not been ruled by a majority government since 2002). They say it will introduce stability and prosperity, meaning that terror will also be defeated. But my humble social sciences education resists this argument, as terrorism in Turkey is not a product of the continued parliamentary system, nor will a shift to another governance system resolve the problem. 

Against the arguments of government officials and pro-government media and academics, the only way to introduce stability in a country is the promotion of more democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms. Stability will not come through a system that weakens all democratic institutions, particularly parliament , while strengthening one-man rule.