When President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan officially assumed the presidency on Thursday, many started to worry that he may push to the limit the full powers of the presidential office, which have been abundant following the military era-drafted Constitution.
Erdoğan himself has made it clear that he will use all the powers, even though some of them were never put into practice by his predecessors.
Responding to a question during a TV interview a day before the presidential election held on Aug. 10, he said: “I am aware that previous presidents didn’t exercise all the powers they possessed. I say that I won’t follow suit. No one should be uneasy about this. I don’t want to be a president who just sits in Çankaya [presidential palace].”
In Turkey, the president holds significant powers which are not usually available in a parliamentary system.
His authorities are granted by a Constitution which was drafted two years after the 1980 military coup. Article 104 of the 1982 Constitution describes the president’s powers.
According to the Constitution, the president signs bills into law or returns them to Parliament when deemed necessary. If Parliament sends the bill back again, the president has to sign the bill but can file a suit with the Constitutional Court on the grounds that it is unconstitutional.
As for constitutional amendments, he has the option to submit a bill to referendum provided that 330 deputies vote for this.
The president holds sway over the military thanks to his power to appoint the chief of the general staff and members of the Supreme Military Appeals Tribunal. In addition, the president determines the names for critical positions such as the heads of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT), the National Police Department, the Telecommunications Directorate (TİB) and many other senior administrative posts in public institutions. He controls and monitors the higher education as well by appointing university chancellors and the members of the Higher Education Board (YÖK).
The president can chair the meeting of the Cabinet when necessary. By signing government decrees, the president can have an impact on government policy. Furthermore, under the chairmanship of the president, the Cabinet can declare a state of emergency in a particular area.
The president has the discretion to shape the top echelons of the judiciary. He appoints 14 of the 17 members of the Constitutional Court, one-fourth of the members of Council of State and four members of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK). Furthermore, the Constitution grants the president the privilege to commute and pardon the sentences of certain convicts on grounds of chronic illness, disability or old age and all or part of the sentences imposed on certain individuals. Erdoğan might resort to this prerogative during his incumbency if his relatives and aides face charges again.
His other legislative duties are to summon Parliament to meet when necessary and to call new elections for Parliament. He ratifies and promulgates international treaties, appoints envoys to foreign states and receives the representatives of foreign states appointed to the Republic of Turkey. Finally, he appoints the members and the chairman of the State Audit Institution (DDK).
It is also worth mentioning that no legal body can bring the president to trial on the grounds that his signature on decrees and presidential orders is unlawful.