‘Erdoğan will become ‘dictator’ with de facto presidential system’

The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has, for the most part, decided on its strategy for the presidential election in August and will seek a plan to switch to a de facto presidential or semi-presidential system, which opposition parties have slammed as a move that will pave the way for dictatorship.

“This would lead to a de facto dictatorship,” Faruk Bal, deputy chairman of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), told Today’s Zaman, noting that as per the Constitution, presidents are not accountable for their acts before the law. 

Whether Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will run for president in the election in August has been a source of controversy, but according to a report by the Radikal daily on Sunday, Erdoğan’s plan is no longer a mystery.

According to decisions reached by Erdoğan, President Abdullah Gül and senior members of the AK Party, Erdoğan will run for president. Should Erdoğan be elected president, a temporary prime minister — though no name has yet been finalized — will run the country for the next 10 months until the 2015 general elections, during which Erdoğan will reportedly be de facto acting like a president in a presidential system. Another part of the plan is to have Gül elected as leader of the AK Party following the 2015 general elections.
 
Not only is the president not accountable before the law other than for charges of treason under the Turkish parliamentarian system, the current political system also lacks checks and balances required in a presidential system to counterbalance a powerful president. “In the current system, it is not possible to counterbalance the president [who would hold extensive powers as in a presidential system]. A ruler who is not restricted by a system of checks and balances is called a dictator,” Bal commented.
 
The AK Party’s plan rests on two important factors. Firstly, this year the people will be electing the president for the first time as opposed to the previous system where presidents were voted in by Parliament. According to Radikal, as president, Erdoğan will try to use the powers of a president in a presidential system, creating a de-facto regime change. If the AK Party faces no obstacles to this plan and if the formula of a new and powerful president is accepted by society, Erdoğan will continue as president with his ineffective prime minister. If however, problems emerge during the course of his presidency, the AK Party will opt for a stronger prime minister.
 
According to Atilla Kart, a deputy from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), such a step would represent a violation of the Constitution given that it is based on the requirements of a parliamentarian democracy.

“Such a move would in fact be a de facto coup d’état in the constitutional sense,” Kart told Today’s Zaman, accusing Erdoğan of having dictatorial tendencies. Noting that such a step would disturb the balance of the current parliamentarian system, Kart challengingly said: “The Turkish Republic would prevent such attempts.”
 
President Gül will likely be elected as leader of the AK Party and prime minister after the 2015 elections. Radikal reported that the AK Party will be consulting with its senior members throughout May to lay out the final version of the plan. The AK Party will have a meeting in Afyon on May 9 in which all deputies will attend. On May 16, there will be a larger meeting in which provincial chapter chairmen and mayors will also be present. Erdoğan and Gül will continue their talks on the presidential plan throughout May.
 
Although the AK Party has not yet decided on a prime minister to lead the government during the “transition” to a presidential or a semi-presidential system, Radikal reported that Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç appears to be a strong candidate. If Turkey eventually gives up the parliamentary system, Gül might not seek leadership of the AK Party. However, if the plan works out, he will most certainly head the AK Party after the 2015 general elections.
 
The prime minister who will run Turkey in the interim will be a senior member who will be running for the last time as per the AK Party’s three-term rule, which states that a deputy cannot serve in Parliament for more than three consecutive terms.
 
The AK Party has, over the previous months, considered removing this rule because Prime Minister Erdoğan is currently serving his third term, but the AK Party’s Central Executive and Steering Committee (MKYK) on Friday ruled to keep the rule in place in line with Erdoğan’s plan to run for president.
 
The AK Party MKYK also decided to abandon its earlier plans to overhaul the current electoral system to introduce single-member or five-member constituencies in an effort to give the AK Party sufficient majority power to draft the constitution and transform the regime into a presidential one. Although the system change would have most certainly benefitted the AK Party overall, sources suggest the plan was abandoned because changing the electoral system would cost the AK Party significantly in İzmir and the Southeast.

Arınç, one of the “founding fathers” of the AK Party, will lead the party to the general elections. Other possible individuals for this post are Ali Babacan and Binali Yıldırım. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and former Felicity Party (SP) leader Numan Kurtulmuş are also among others who might be the AK Party’s choice for prime minister in the transitional period.
 
Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay confirmed on Sunday that the possibility of Erdoğan running for president had become stronger. “But of course we would not want to see our president detached from his own cause, his mission and this movement and want him to have a say in his future,” Atalay said, speaking about President Gül’s future in the party during a program aired on Kanal 24. He said the 2015 general elections are extremely important for the AK Party and the party would be stronger if both Erdoğan and Gül remain in politics.

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About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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