President Erdoğan tells PM Davutoğlu: I’ll chair Cabinet on Jan 19

President Erdoğan tells PM Davutoğlu: I’ll chair Cabinet on Jan 19

President Erdoğan tells PM Davutoğlu: I’ll chair Cabinet on Jan 19

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan confirmed he will head Cabinet meetings, using his executive authority. AA Photo

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has ended speculation as to when he will chair a Cabinet meeting, announcing Dec. 29 that he will do so on Jan. 19, 2015, while underlining that the move was in line with the charter and within the knowledge of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu.

“The Republic of Turkey is a republic being governed within the framework drawn by the Constitution,” Erdoğan said Dec. 29 when a reporter asked about speculation on the matter – an intention openly declared by Erdoğan himself in November.

In mid-December, ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) İzmir deputy Binali Yıldırım said Erdoğan would chair a Cabinet meeting for the first time in his current capacity on Jan. 5, 2015, adding that such meetings presided over by Erdoğan would subsequently take place every two months.

As of Dec. 26, in his first direct and public remarks on the prospects, Davutoğlu said in an interview that there was no meeting scheduled for Jan. 5 but that previous examples had shown that the Cabinet meeting could convene under the leadership of the president.

“As a president elected by the people, I frequently made this statement before the election: ‘Whatever the authorities granted by the Constitution are, I will use these authorities until the end.’ Since the handover – September, October, November, December – four months have passed and now we are entering January,” Erdoğan said. “As a president, it is a provision of the Constitution which says, ‘He presides over the Council of Ministers and calls the Council of Ministers to meet when he deems it necessary.’ And we have discussed this with Mr. Prime Minister too.”

Erdoğan was referring to Article 104 of the Constitution which outlines the duties and powers of the president and which is the basis for his and his inner circle’s argument and justification for his intention. Among the duties and powers relating to executive functions, the Constitution lists “presiding over the Council of Ministers or calling the Council of Ministers to meet under his or her chairmanship whenever he or she deems necessary.”

Compared to Davutoğlu’s guarded comment on Dec. 26, a more blunt statement came from Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç over the weekend.

Claims by Yıldırım, a long-time comrade of Erdoğan, are incorrect, Arınç said Dec. 27.

“Binalı Yıldırım does not possess any other titles other than being a deputy from İzmir. He also is not the spokesperson for the president. It is wrong for a person, who does not possess any titles, to say that the government will meet under the leadership of the president, which is an issue that needs to stay between the president and the prime minister. I believe that this is wrong,” Arınç said Dec. 27 on TV.

Yıldırım’s response was swift as he underlined that Turkey had entered a new era upon Erdoğan’s election as president in a popular vote.

“We entered a new era in Turkey on Aug. 10. Our president now answers to the nation from now on because he got support from 52 percent of the nation,” Yıldırım said Dec. 28, while delivering a speech at a district-level party congress in İzmir.

“On the new route of the new Turkey … we put our Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu in charge; we entrusted him with the task,” Yıldırım said.

In the run-up to the presidential election in August, which he won in the first round, Erdoğan repeatedly stated that the current Constitution grants “executive power” to a president who comes to office via the popular vote, just as the 1982 Constitution granted “executive power” to the 1980 military coup leader, Kenan Evren.

Çankaya, Beştepe

Erdoğan, meanwhile, noted that Yıldırım denied that he set an exact date.

“However, by talking about the issue with Mr. Prime Minister, too, I will gather the Council of Ministers at Beştepe on the 19th of the month [January],” Erdoğan said, referring to the controversial new presidential palace located in the Beştepe area of the capital city which is also known as the “Ak Saray” (White Palace). Until very recently, Çankaya had been used as a byword for the presidential office in Turkish politics in reference to the Çankaya Presidential Palace. In so doing, Erdoğan demonstrated that he wanted to change the jargon in politics, in addition to building himself a new presidential palace.

“Nobody should attempt to impose tutelage on the president. The president is the head of this state and he uses his authority as the head of this state,” Erdoğan said, recalling how he has long made clear that he would not be “a usual president.”

Displaying awareness of the ongoing debate and its repercussions, Erdoğan said his presiding over the Cabinet would not be “an occasion of uneasiness” but would rather offer an opportunity for deliberations on “steps that could be taken.”

“A detachment between the government and Beştepe, or the president, may give joy to those who display different views about us. We don’t have any intention of giving them cause for joy. I believe that it will be extremely beautiful work,” Erdoğan said.