Constitutional absolute rule

Constitutional absolute rule

Finally, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ has let the cat out of the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) bag, by officially presenting a proposal demanding that Turkey move from parliamentary democracy to a consolidated presidential system of governance. This would mean either instituting constitutional absolute rule of the enforced sultan, or cutting it short.

Presidential governance might be a good idea, provided that with it this country would establish an adequate system of checks and balances. If not, I am scared that the existing police-state like situation will be supplemented with a fully-fledged tyranny of autocratic rule. After all, don’t forget that this country has a strong tradition of power-worshipping.

This issue has been popping up in Turkey for a long time, and more frequently since 2010, after which the de facto absolute ruler Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan decided to become the de juro absolute ruler. Alas, all other naïve Turks were hoping that this crucial issue, like the definition of Turkishness and such outstanding constitutional problems, would be resolved in a new constitution being “written” by a special commission participated in by all parties at Parliament. With almost no progress at that commission, Erdoğan’s patience apparently has run out, and he declared last week that he no longer believed the commission would succeed in writing a new constitution. It was obvious from those words that the tall, bald, bold and every angry absolute ruler would instruct his men to go it alone with their own designs. His party is a few seats short of the required parliamentary majority (330 votes) necessary to legislate and take any constitutional amendment to referendum. Probably, the AKP will now indulge in a vote buying program - nothing new in Turkish politics.

Anyhow, before we embrace it as a gift of the almighty sultan or reject it with the back of our hand as if it is a devilish idea, it would have been great if the country had been given the chance to discuss and debate the presidential system - as well as the checks and balances that must accompany it - to make sure it does not turn into the theocratic dictatorship that many of us are very much afraid of.

In any case, before opting for a change of governance system, would it not be far wiser for Turkey to concentrate on eradicating the problems of the existing multi-party parliamentary system? This has unfortunately become a majoritarian system of governance that has suspended the separation of powers, the supremacy of justice, equality and transparency, the sanctity of private life, and other such fundamental principles and norms of democratic governance.

At least, as now it is officially proposed, can we have a free public discussion on the issue without risking spending time in the Silivri concentration camp?