Turkish ex-president urges caution over switching to full presidency
ISTANBULFormer President Abdullah Gül has urged caution over the government’s proposal to switch from the current parliamentary model to a full presidential system, while predicting that the ruling party will win the upcoming elections, but lose seats in parliament.
“If the presidential system will be a matter of debate, then we should be very careful. Checks and balances should be written down very clearly,” Gül said in a closing speech for the Financial Times Turkey Summit in Istanbul on April 15.
Hours before Gül spoke in Istanbul, Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) announced in Ankara its manifesto for the June 7 general elections, promising to change the country’s administrative system to a presidential system in line with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s insistent calls.
“We envision the presidential system as a governance model within the frame of a pro-freedom constitution in which legislative and executive powers are independently efficient, democratic checks-and-balances mechanisms exist and societal diversity is politically represented,” Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said in an address to party members.
Davutoğlu did not elaborate on the details of the proposed system, leaving several questions unanswered, such as what kind of checks and balances would be included in the new system.
Gül, on the other hand, repeated that the parliamentary system was a better fit for Turkey. “If we have a presidential system like the ones in advanced democracies and the countries in which the rule of law is universally practiced, then we can’t call such a system undemocratic. But frankly, my preference for Turkey is improving its parliamentary system,” he said.
The former president endorsed the 12-year rule of the AKP in broad terms, but admitted that “everything could be better today” as Turkey’s “reformist excitement, dynamism and performance” has stalled in the past two or three years.
“Rockets should be ignited again to put Turkey into a new orbit,” Gül said, predicting that the AKP would continue as a one-party government, although “the opposition parties will be stronger in the parliament” after the upcoming elections.
In an apparent reference to Erdoğan’s heated rhetoric, Gül said: “Polarization must stop; the climate must be normalized. It is not very hard to achieve it. Simply being careful about rhetoric and moderating language accordingly to create a new climate after the elections will be enough.”