Effectiveness, not names, matters
As often it is said “size does not matter;” indeed the name of the governance system does not matter either. What matters is the name of the governance system of a country or functionality, accountability, effectiveness of governance in that country. Ever since Turkey moved to civilian governance after the 1980 coup that devastated the political culture and enabled wild opportunism to crawl in, the country has been discussing a possible presidential system.
If democracy is “governance by the people for the people” perhaps it is wiser not to categorically be supportive or rejectionist of any model, and instead focus on a search to find which model fits well for our people. To be honest and frank, can anyone comfortably say that the parliamentary governance model has smoothly been working since its inception in the republican period?
Thanks to the crooked legislation on political parties and worsening election laws in the country, party leaders have become some sort of feudal lords in the country. How could a parliamentarian, whose political prospects were, is and will be at the discretion of his party’s leader, perform his fundamental duty on behalf of his constituents?
We have to accept that parliamentary democracy did not work in Turkey, particularly after 1980. One reason might be the absence of by-elections in selecting parliamentary candidates, but even with by-elections, there would probably still be deficiencies if internal democracy within parties cannot be achieved. It is a fact that all parties, regardless of size, became dukedoms for party leaders. It was unfortunate, but the fundamental principle of democratic parliamentary governance – which means the separation of powers – just vanished into thin air in Turkey.
If the prime minister is also the leader of the ruling party, if deputies are all competing to become ministers, and if that party leader as the premier is the absolute decision maker of the future of all deputies in that party, can it be possible to avoid the emergence of despots in that country? If the party leader, prime minister, chief judge, chief legislator, prosecutor and the executioner can become one person, or all such powers are controlled by one hand, can there be any sort of democracy in that country?
Of course, in the absence of the rule of law and a lack in equality for all in the law, there cannot be democratic governance. Irrespective of the personality of the accused and regardless of who he is or whose son he is be, everyone must be held accountable in a democracy. Judges and prosecutors of a democratic country cannot and should not take orders from the political authority. What is right under the law should always be right irrespective of what the power holders of the country might think about it. To achieve these, an independent judiciary is a prime requirement, and unfortunately Turkey has deficiencies in that area.
If there was a functioning parliamentary democracy firmly upholding the norms, values and institutions of democratic governance, Turkey today would not be suffering the growing pains of a constitutional amendment to overcome anomalies in governance by giving super powers to the president.
A presidential system, with a proper checks and balances system, might usher Turkey into an era of much aspired democratic governance where the parliament might finally serve as a regulatory and supervisory authority, rather than the current “yes” or “no” robotic crowd controlled by party leaders.
On the other hand, in a country that has a power-worshipping society, would a presidential governance system not evolve into a full-fledged dictatorship? Doesn’t Turkey already suffer the pains of a very strong leader dictating his views on the entire country?
Right, with a lunatic perception, one may defend the merits of holding all powers in one hand and ruling the country with firm stability. Such a model, however, cannot be described as a presidential or a sovereign democracy, but would rather be described as a dictatorship with an ineffective parliament.
With a wild and “all is mine” approach, it might place the country in a dreadful dictatorship. With proper checks and balances – which I doubt is achievable in Turkey’s current conditions – presidential governance might indeed be a precious achievement.