A new Turkey
The massive transformation of Turkey, which was established as a modern secular Turkish republic in 1923, entered a new phase on June 24 with the official introduction of the presidential executive governance system. The executive presidency was indeed de facto launched four years ago with Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s election as president. Now with the incumbent’s reelection, the system officially commenced.
Erdoğan himself during the campaign introduced how he understood the executive presidency. The number of ministries would be decreased to 16 while the office of the prime minister will no longer exist. Many government agencies will turn into “offices” under direct orders of the president. From the past few years’ experience and from the declarations of Erdoğan himself, it should not be surprising at all for the executive president to collect legislative, judicial and of course executive powers in his hands. Rather than the separation of powers — which very rarely applied post-1980 in Turkey – the unity of powers and checks and balances will not be tested.
For the second time (the first was in June 2015), the ruling party will no longer enjoy parliamentary majority. According to preliminary results, it might have 292 or 293 seats in the new 600-seat unicameral legislature. As unlike the 2015 June vote he cannot easily call for a snap election, Erdoğan must accommodate to this new reality. With the 49 seats, the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) election ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which apparently secured AKP, will most probably have little difficulty in establishing parliamentary majority. Yet, even together with the MHP it will be far short than the required 360 seats to undertake constitutional reforms or 400 seats to start the process of impeaching the president. In any case, as the president and the parliamentary majority belong to the same alliance, impeachment might never ever be in the cards.
However, the June 24 vote produced such a parliamentary arithmetic that the MHP – that surprisingly maintained its November 2015 electoral strength despite losing some MPs to the İYİ (Good) Party – has become a real kingmaker party. Without surprise it did not take long for MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli to deliver a victory speech and remind Erdoğan that it was with the MHP support that he was elected president and that without the MHP support he would not gain a majority in parliament. This reflects one of the probable weaknesses of the new executive order of the country. Erdoğan is condemned to continue – at least until after he manages to find an equally strong or stronger parliamentary partner – to be a hostage of the MHP. Thus, expectations of a new Kurdish opening after the June 24 vote must now be put aside as the executive president ought to continue to be more nationalist than the MHP.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), on the other hand, not only lost the parliamentary vote badly, its presidential candidate performed – as expected – far better than the party. By lending 15 deputies to İYİ Party to overcome election qualification hurdles and making Muharrem İnce a presidential candidate, CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu probably deserved a more successful result. In this new period, İnce, with his outstanding campaign performance, might force a leadership change in the CHP. On the other hand, partly because of İnce’s different and embracing campaign skills, some sort of a strange rapprochement was observed between the CHP and the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). Could the CHP and HDP put aside some other impairing luggage and usher Turkey’s left to a new and promising era? This might be one of the serious tests the two parties and Turkey must succeed in.
Besides İYİ Party, if the Islamist Felicity Party (SP) – which was also part of the CHP-led Nation Alliance, managed to enter parliament, perhaps a better representation of the nation in parliament would have been achieved. In any case, the performance of Temel Karamollaoğlu was instrumental in changing the SP perception among the public but not enough to win votes for the party.