The new era creeps in

The new era creeps in

Why was emergency rule declared in the country? Why did the president and the cabinet obtain the authority to issue emergency law decrees? Was it not to take the country out of the danger, threats, and impacts of the Islamist-military failed coup of 2016?

Indeed, the constitution and the past practice outlined in all clarity that the government and the president could issue emergency law decrees only related to the reasons why emergency rule was proclaimed. In any case, after the Constitutional Court decided not to be a troublemaking body, it ruled to make itself dysfunctional as a result of complaints that the emergency law decrees were incompatible with the constitution. Emergency rule decrees became a freeway of governance for the president and his government.

The first decree of the new era in Turkey was issued. With the Emergency Rule Decree No. 477, a landmark set of reforms were achieved in scores of laws. Almost all references in the laws to the cabinet, executive councils or simply the government were deleted and replaced with a single word: President. Is the new era not one of presidential governance? Here you are. Even before it officially started on July 9 with a swearing in session in parliament and a grotesque takeover ceremony at the extravagant palace, the fundamental characteristic of the new period crawled in. Irrespective of with what word it might be described, the meaning of decree 447 was clear: This country has become one of those countries ruled by “one man rule.”

The cabinet, prime minister, ministers, regulations and all such references in the “old laws” have become obsolete and replaced by the president or presidential orders and presidential decisions.

What is wrong with that? Since the nation has decided to shift to presidential rule, was it not necessary to make all those changes to the country’s laws? Of course. However, those changes ought to be done in parliament. The legislative duty of the Turkish legislature, which cannot be taken over or transferred to any person or body under the constitution, should not be done through an emergency rule decree. If there was a lack of time to legislate those changes, the presidential election should have been held a few months later instead of using the emergency rule as a mechanism to change the fundamentals of governance in the country.

I would not want to indulge into a futile discussion of whether presidential rule or a parliamentary democracy is the best fit for this country. Both are administrative systems with pros and cons. Parliamentary democracy was dysfunctional and indeed turned into a party leaders’ autocracy in this country. It was President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who best used that system, but all other leaders benefitted from it as well, in turning their parties into some sort of small dukedoms. That system had very serious problems, which if it continued, would have needed a very serious reform, particularly regarding check and balances as well as parliamentary responsibilities.

Let us hope the shortcomings of this new system will be discovered before the Turkey truck hits a concrete wall and the nation suffers some very serious pains once again. Let us hope this time, Erdoğan will become a wise president who can “order” a system of checks and balances that might transform Turkey to a country into a place with independent courts and full respect to liberties and freedoms. Is it not strange to hear, at this juncture, that the construction of new prisons with a cumulative capacity of hosting 100,000 additional inmates has almost been completed?

Yusuf Kanlı, State of Emergency,