‘PM Erdoğan coming like a tank on the road to the presidency’
Hürriyet Daily News
Cindoruk (R) has no doubt that PM Erdoğan wants to become president. ‘The post of president is comfortable,’ he says in his office in the historic Mısır building on İstiklal Avenue, which he has been using since 1964.Arguments continue to rage on whether the current president should serve five or seven years, but veteran politician and lawyer Hüsamettin Cindoruk maintains that, legally, the current term is only five years, necessitating polls next year. While many have speculated that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan would only run for the post in 2014, Cindoruk believes he will run this year.
“Leaders see the presidency as an opportunity. The post of the presidency is very attractive, it is active, yet not too busy,” said the former head of parliament.
Moreover, Erdoğan’s recent illness might also strengthen his wish to become president, Cindoruk told the Hürriyet Daily News in a recent interview.
What is your view on the term of the current president?
When you look to the implementation of the Constitution, it is apparent that the term is five years. The Constitution has changed and the term of the president has been rearranged. In the current Constitution, it is written that the presidential term is five years. This cannot be changed by a law.
If you accept that the mandate is seven years, you will do that by enacting a law that is against the Constitution and the Constitutional Court will [overrule] it.
After saying that the period is five years, the Constitution says the substantive and procedural issues will be organized by law. Therefore, the Constitution only gives authority to Parliament on the procedures of the presidential elections, such as how it will be conducted and so on.
Some say that the current president was elected by Parliament before the amendments were adopted by the referendum, suggesting, therefore, that the presidential term should be seven years.
The Constitution’s provisions are what’s relevant. This would have been true if there was a temporary article saying that the current president’s mandate is seven years. But since this issue has been ignored, this period has been shortened to ‘5+5.’ You can only do that by introducing a provisional article to the Constitution, but time is running out. My understanding is that the government will enact a law about the procedures. They should have done it earlier, but did not. So now is the time. In 2012, there should be a presidential election. If you think according to democratic principles, an amendment done via a referendum is permanent and is valid unless it is changed in the same way.
My experience has
shown me that our
president has more
to presidents in other
through popular vote.
Isn’t it important that Erdoğan said the term of the current president lasts until 2014?
This might be his wish but that cannot be the rule. In addition, he is using a vague expression. He says, “This is our view.” Well, views could be discussed. His advisers will warn him. The presidential elections will be done in 2012.
Why do you think he has pointed to 2014?
This is empty talk. He has plans for himself. He wants to be the president. He believes the best timing would be 2014. Yet even the Constitutional Court which he designed himself will not let a provision of the Constitution be changed by law.
If this issue is so crystal clear from a legal point of view, why are we discussing it so much then?
This is about political interests and personal expectations. When you look at our political history, the post of president has been seen as an opportunity by leaders. In our recent past, [the late] Turgut Özal and Süleyman Demirel displayed the wish to become president. A tradition has been established. Some have sought this opportunity [the post of president] because it’s irresistible. I guess Erdoğan is thinking similarly. Health issues might have also been added [to the mix]. The presidency is a calm place. It has both active though not exhausting [duties]. For 35 days, I was the acting president; truly it is really comfortable. But in parliamentary systems, leaders should not volunteer for the presidency, they should help others be elected. Otherwise, this creates trouble in the parties.
The most striking examples are ANAVATAN [Motherland Party] and the DYP [True Path Party], which were dissolved once their leaders went to the presidency. Our political parties are parties of leadership.
Do you think the Justice and Development Party (AKP) will suffer from a similar end if Erdoğan becomes president?
Absolutely. This is the rule of politics. A majority of our nation votes for the leaders [rather than the parties].
Maybe the AKP could prove to be an exception to that rule. Some suggests President Abdullah Gül might become the prime minister and keep the party together.
The ruling Justice and
will dissolve if
the president. No one
could replace him as the
leader of the AKP.
Whether it is Gül or someone else, once Recep Tayyip Erdoğan becomes the president, the ties within the party will loosen, party authority will weaken, and debates will start. Our parties are not political parties based on ideology: They are mass parties and masses are very mobile. Throughout the 60 years in the transition to democracy, governing parties have gotten bigger, then smaller. Parties like the Republican People’s Party [CHP] or the DYP have fallen at the electoral threshold. There is no exception to that rule. If Erdoğan becomes the president, no one could replace him as the leader of AKP.
Some suggest that Erdoğan would not wish to become the president unless the system is changed to a presidential one.
I don’t share this view. Under the Constitution at the moment, the president has [the ability] to intervene in the state. In addition, if a president has great esteem with his/her party and the people, his/her weight automatically increases. My experience has shown to me that our president has more authority compared to presidents in other countries elected through popular vote. What is missing only is that, in our case, the president has limited authority to dissolve Parliament. Özal blocked 400 appointment decrees sent by Demirel.
Many believe Erdoğan would prefer the presidential system.
He talks about it but he could have acted in this direction if that were his real wish. But he fears being subject to criticism if the system becomes presidential. But I think he would rather prefer a quiet port, especially after his illness.
So you claim he would actually not want a presidential system?
He would not even wish for a half-presidential system. Some politicians never say their real views but make the public discuss issues.
So what is Erdoğan’s strategy in fueling these discussions?
He is creating an artificial agenda, especially with the help of the media he created for himself. [He’s doing this] to push his attacks on the democratic regime and the press onto the back burner.
What is your scenario for 2012?
It is difficult to stop tanks. It will not be possible to stop Erdoğan. He will come like a tank to present his candidacy for the presidency and attempt to be elected. And perhaps he will be elected. He is an opportunist. He makes politics based on his ego. Given that he cannot become prime minister again unless the AKP changes its bylaws, would you [really] expect him to retire at the age of 55 or 60?
Who is HÜSAMETTİN CİNDORUK?
Born in 1933 in İzmir, Hüsamettin Cindoruk is one of Turkey’s most prominent political figures, standing not only as a witness but as a key actor in the country’s recent political history. A graduate of Ankara University’s Law School, he started to work as a lawyer right after graduation in 1954.
He became one of the youngest lawyers to defend members of the Democrat Party (DP), which was toppled in a military coup in 1960. He continued a political career that he started in the DP with successive right-wing parties, taking on different responsibilities and surviving two military coups.
Following the 1980 military coup, after which the political activities of several politicians were banned, Cindoruk was elected to head the True Path Party (DYP) in 1985, leaving the post later to Süleyman Demirel when the latter’s political ban ended.
Cindoruk served as parliamentary speaker between 1991 and 1995 and became acting president briefly in 1993 upon the death of Turgut Özal.
He did not put his candidacy to head the DYP when Demirel became president after Özal, choosing instead to form the Democratic Turkey Party. His efforts throughout the 1990s to unite the main right-wing parties were unsuccessful.