Problems between president, PM at minimum: Davutoğlu

Problems between president, PM at minimum: Davutoğlu

Akif Beki - SOFIA
Problems between president, PM at minimum: Davutoğlu

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu (L) shakes hands with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in this Nov. 17, 2015, file photo. DHA Photo

Problems between the president and the prime minister are at their lowest point in Turkey’s modern history, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has claimed, amid renewed debate on the government’s desired shift to a presidential administrative system from the current parliamentary one. 

“It’s wrong to say that this ‘double-headedness’ issue is new,” Davutoğlu told journalist abroad his plane while returning to Turkey from an official visit to Bulgaria. 

“What’s more, we [as prime minister and president] are experiencing a time when problems are at a minimum,” he said, suggesting that there were bigger problems before the Justice and Development Party (AKP) first came to power in 2002. 

Davutoğlu particularly recalled problems between Kenan Evren, the coup leader who later became the president, and Turgut Özal, who was first elected prime minister after the 1980 coup. He also noted that Özal faced problems as president with then-Prime Minister Süleyman Demirel in the early 1990s, while social democrat Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit later also faced problems with then-President Ahmet Necdet Sezer. 

“The opposition argues as if this issue has newly emerged. We have to set this right,” he said.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has repeatedly called for a formal shift to a presidential system, with Davuoğlu also expressing support. 

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu recently said the first four articles of the current constitution were a “red line” for him, ruling out support for a shift to the presidential system during a change to the constitution. 

Davutoğlu said he wanted to “focus on the positive sides” of Kılıçdaroğlu’s remarks. 

“He says we can discuss anything but the first four items. He even says they could lend support. This is important,” he said, adding that this would allow faster steps in issues such as the budget, a democratization package that also includes a free-visa travel deal with the EU, and parliament regulation changes. 

“When it comes to the presidential system, the disagreement [between the political parties] is already obvious. We should leave this issue to a debate that all sections of society will take part in calmly,” Davutoğlu said. 

The AKP has 317 seats at parliament, 13 short of the number needed to pass a constitutional change alone and submit it to a referendum. 

“[We will] continue this discussion calmly until a consensus emerges. By no means will we abandon the main points on Turkey’s agenda,” the prime minister said. 

“When I wake up in the morning, I have to think about the operations in Cizre and Silopi, on the one hand, and I have to watch movements on the borders with Syria and Iraq, on the other hand. The U.S. Federal Reserve interest rate decision is also about to be revealed, so I have to think about its effects on the economy. I have to look at the situation in relations with Russia. Tomorrow, I have to go Brussels and think about our visa exemption process [with the EU]. So can we talk about the presidential system all day long? We have to continue our work. We will operate the current system in the best way possible, while maintaining that Turkey’s basic problem is its constitution. There will be problems in starting a new, lasting and stable period until this issue is solved,” Davutoğlu added.

“Noone is in a position to dictate to the other in constitution talks. They [the opposition] cannot do this to us either,” he also said, adding that he was planning to meet with opposition leaders to talk about the budget, the government’s legislative plan for the coming period, and the constitutional change.