Presidential system not a priority: Turkish PM

Presidential system not a priority: Turkish PM

Presidential system not a priority: Turkish PM

AP photo

Changing the existing parliamentarian system of Turkey into a presidential one is not a priority for his new government, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said, arguing that a comprehensive reform process that would meet people’s demands was a more urgent item on the agenda.

“Our conviction is frankly a presidential system based on a well-defined principle of a separation of powers,” Davutoğlu said on Nov. 10 in an interview with public broadcaster TRT.

“But this is not a discussion for today. What is urgent for us today is solving urgent problems, which are the reasons for 49.5 percent of our citizens voting in favor of us, to clear the way for citizens and start a big reform movement,” Davutoğlu added.

As recently as Nov. 4, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan overtly presented the creation of a new constitution that would pave the way for a transition to a presidential system as the number-one item on the agenda of the newly elected legislature.

“Turkey’s need to solve the issue of a new constitution was one of the most important messages of Nov. 1. The nation is waiting for this,” Erdoğan said Nov. 4, days after the Nov. 1 elections. 

Although Erdoğan did not directly refer to his long-held ambition to create an executive presidential system, presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın, said earlier the same day that Turkey was considering holding a referendum on changing from a parliamentary to a presidential system.

“Our number one agenda at the moment is forming the government, number two is the government’s program and number three is fulfilling promises we made through three-month-long practices and, in the meantime, reducing tension and preparing an environment where the new constitution can be discussed within this framework,” Davutoğlu said, adding that what essentially matters is a lasting constitution, no matter if it involves a parliamentary system or a presidential one.

Earlier, in an interview with CNN International’s Christiane Amanpour on Nov. 9, Davutoğlu cited freedom of the press and intellectual freedoms as his personal redlines.

“First of all, I was a columnist in the 1990s when I was in the academic life. So freedom of the press and intellectual freedom are redlines for me,” Davutoğlu said, in response to a question over concerns of a crackdown on the press by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and the AKP’s founding leader, Erdoğan.

“If there’s an attack on any intellectual or columnist or a journalist, I will be the advocate for that [issue]. I can assure you this,” he added. 

In his answer, Davutoğlu rebuffed claims the Turkish government hindered journalistic activities and gave an example of a magazine cover that he considered a “provocation.” The cover in question was that of Nokta magazine, which published a controversial cover with the title “Monday, Nov. 2: The beginning of Turkey’s civil war.” The magazine has since been taken to court over the cover.

When asked about former President Abdullah Gül’s remarks on the need to upgrade Turkish democracy, Davutoğlu admitted more had to be done. 

“We need to do more. And my first agenda [item] will be tomorrow; I will have meetings with our executive board. [There] will be new reforms, political and economic reforms,” he said, adding the reforms will be declared in the next two weeks.