Turkish PM Erdoğan ‘may win presidency, but this will lead to problems’
ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
I think it would be much better for the future of this country if Prime Minister Erdoğan were not a presidential candidate, prominet political researcher Tarhan Erdem (L) tells the Hürriyet Daily News.Current Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is likely to become the president in the coming August election, according to Tarhan Erdem of research company KONDA. “No one should expect the reasons that made him win in the local elections to disappear in four months’ time,” Erdem told the Daily News, while adding that Erdoğan’s path will not be smooth even after he ascends to the presidency.
What is your general assessment about the outcome of the local elections?
The electorate made few readjustments to the outcome of the 2011 general elections. The election results underlined once more how polarization is effective in Turkey, as well as the lack of opposition in the country.
What does the outcome tell us about the upcoming elections?
Many tend to look at it from the perspective of the presidential elections [due in August]. There are two possibilities: If Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan puts his candidacy forward, he will win in the first round, albeit with difficulty, if he goes on with his current rhetoric. He will win very easily in the second round if he tempers his rhetoric. There is a leader of a party that has won 45 percent of the votes; no one should expect the reasons that made him win in the local elections to disappear in four months’ time.
What’s your view on the controversy over the fairness of the elections?
I worked as a ballot box observer in 1954 and 1957, as well as during the elections between 1961-1969. I have written hundreds of petitions to object to election results. So I believe I am well placed to be familiar with the issue. This is the first election where procedures have become the victim of politics. This is the responsibility of the political parties, the Supreme Election Board [YSK], as well as the candidates. The YSK decided not to have its rulings published in the Official Gazette. That was a very wrong decision. Previously, no decision from the YSK could be implemented until it was published in the Official Gazette. The YSK makes a decision and instructs all the relevant parties to implement this decision without it being published in the Official Gazette, but we need transparency in all of the YSK’s decisions and implementations.
On the other hand, the opposition calls the election results questionable just because there were many objections. An opposition leader has no right to destroy confidence that was built over 60 years without concrete evidence.
Perhaps this stems from the lack of confidence in the institutions in Turkey, which are believed to be under total governmental control.
But there is no reason to not trust it. Or at least you need to prove it.
So you believe we had fair elections.
Yes. But I don’t say there was no fraud; I just say we can’t make an accusation without concrete evidence.
Do you think there could be an alliance between the opposition to come up with a single candidate?
It is possible. But they need to do it in a more discreet way, which is not currently the case.
As of today, we are heading into a process where Erdoğan is likely be a candidate for the presidency.
Yes, but I think it would be much better for the future of this country if he were not a presidential candidate. If he becomes a candidate, he becomes a candidate with the political gains he has earned and with the high value the nation has given to him. But this is not compatible with the mission that is stipulated in the Constitution. When you think about the restrictions in the Constitution regarding the mission of the president and the power Erdoğan received with the 45 percent of the vote he received, you cannot keep him within these restrictions. In addition, if he wins, there will be problems with who becomes the prime minister. There will be a chaotic situation. If President Abdullah Gül becomes the prime minister and they agree on a division of labor, would that work? There are too many unknowns. The problem is we are going to end up with several complications, which will be difficult to fix once they place.
You are suggesting that we will end up with problems due to the Constitution?
Erdoğan now has a different relationship with the nation compared to March 29. The moment he wins the elections, he will go to the presidency with these political gains. Is there any possibility that he will remain silent on the daily or long term issues that society is involved in? At any rate the people will ask him to get involved. The Constitution does not define his mission to become involved with daily affairs, yet he will.
But the Constitution does not say “the president can’t deal with daily issues.” It says, for instance, that the president can head Cabinet meetings whenever necessary, and Erdoğan could say there is a necessity to head the Cabinet meeting every Monday.
Of course he could, and I say this would violate the Constitution. He will create a de facto situation without any specific rules. Which issues will he have a say about? Will the prime minister act according to what the president says?
You argue that there will be a problem with the prime minister. But we have seen the case in the past when late President Turgut Özal chose Yıldırım Akbulut for prime minister as he was believed to be loyal to him.
But the civil bureaucracy always takes its instructions from the prime minister. Whenever there is an issue, they go and ask the prime minister. The prime minister can’t say each time, “Well, let me ask the president.” In addition, there were also problematic situations in the case of Yıldırım Akbulut as well. He was not as obedient as people thought he was.
So you claim that there will definitely be problems even with a prime minister who is known to be completely loyal to the president?
Yes. In addition, there is also the stance of the opposition. To what degree will the opposition accept this situation?
It seems quite clear that Erdoğan is taking the country to a presidential system?
But if he can get the necessary majority in the Parliament during the next general elections, with the help of the Kurds, he will be able to change the Constitution to have a presidential system, and the problems you have talked could thus be solved.
This is a plausible scenario, but it won’t solve the problems. If we have a constitutional change to have a presidential system, we will face even greater difficulties. Our state structure is based on centralized administration. With a constitutional change, you will put a single person at the top of that centralized structure; it would be very difficult to govern like that. We will end up having disastrous situations. We first need to change the administrative structure to have more local governance. That will take years, but only after that can we change the system to a presidential one.
Who is Tarhan Erdem ?
Tarhan Erdem was born in Kurucaşile in 1933. He graduated from the Faculty of Civil Engineering at the Istanbul Technical University in 1959.
He worked as a project and control engineer, CEO and general coordinator at Türkiye Şeker Fabrikaları between 1959-1995, as well as at daily Milliyet and the Doğan Group. He founded the KONDA Research and Consultancy company in 1987.
Erdem was a member of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) between 1953 and 2001, where he served in posts ranging from general secretary to member of the association managers’ board. He was elected as a member of Parliament for Istanbul in 1977, and was the Minister of Industries and Technology in the Cabinet of Bülent Ecevit that failed the vote of confidence in June 1977.
Erdem is currently the chairman of the board of directors of KONDA and is a columnist at Radikal newspaper.