What kind of Turkey do we want?
Turkish citizens voting at Sunday’s presidential elections will most likely not only just produce a president, but usher in a new and problematic era in the country.
Most likely by the time this article reaches the reader, the results of the presidential vote will become clearer. Though I would like to preserve my hope that the nation will wake up, see the looming grave danger posed to Turkish democracy by a probable presidential victory of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, unfortunately the other two candidates offer little in return. The joint candidate of the vast majority of the opposition, Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu is as much a conservative man, yet was presented a far more democratic personality compared to the premier. The third candidate, Selahattin Demirtaş, staged a rather interesting campaign and if he hadn’t had a pro-Kurdish and separatist image prior to the election, he could have indeed fooled many Turks in believing he was someone defending the unity and integrity of the country. In that nasty cocktail of candidates that I chose from, İhsanoğlu appeared to be the “lesser evil” and the vote this writer went for.
Most probably, hours before this article reaches readers, the tall, bald and bold man would have declared his victory and delivered yet another one of his famous “balcony speeches,” where he pledges to turn the country into a rose garden… As we have seen before, past balcony speeches have delivered little in return.
The tone of the election campaign itself demonstrated what’s in the stock for the nation. If Erdoğan’s presidency is produced in the first round of voting, as the nation expects, then it will be the end for Turkey’s “democracy under slippers.” The atmosphere of fear that was established in the country over the past decade will be consolidated and soon the entire country would start celebrating the greatness of having an absolute power who would be able to decide, legislate and execute everything singlehandedly, and if needed he would judge and deliver the verdict singlehandedly as well. Allegiant pundits then will praise the new system of governance in the country as the “Turkish presidential system.” Anyhow, why would Turkey copy the presidential system of the United States or the semi-presidential system of France? Those systems have a checks and balances limiting the powers of the presidents, whereas the “Mr. know all” Turkish president should be above the laws and enjoy unrestricted judicial immunity. Otherwise, why would Erdoğan demand presidency?
The form of administration is a technical issue and most probably presidential or semi-presidential governance might best fit Turkey. Yet, what Erdoğan has been after for many years is to become chief executive with unrestricted power where there are no checks and balances.
Irrespective with what percentage Erdoğan is elected or whether or not he is elected in the first round or at the second round of voting scheduled, which is scheduled for Aug. 24, this presidential election has placed in front of Turks a key problem that requires urgent attention: What to do with the governance problem in Turkey? Shall we go on to a presidential system that indeed will be a dictatorship in the absence of checks and balances? Shall we reconcile and amend the Constitution to move on to a presidential or semi-presidential system with checks and balances? Or, what? Sunday’s vote definitely was more than just a vote for Turkey… Turks went to the polls to cast their votes on an unasked question: What kind of a future do you want for Turkey?