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Presidential system takes center stage of Turkey's parliamentary elections

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Introducing a presidential system in Turkey has become the main topic of the election campaigns. President Erdoğan, speaking at respected think tank SETA’s panel on the issue, said for a more efficient economic and political environment resistant to crises, a presidential system is crucial.

Replacing the current parliamentary system with a presidential form of government for a more politically stable and smoother-running country has taken the center stage in the upcoming parliamentary elections, with the principle advocate of the transition, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), facing off against the rest of the political spectrum. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, speaking yesterday at the Ankara-based Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA) think tank’s panel, “Country Examples on presidential system and basic dynamics of the presidential system for Turkey,” once again reiterated the importance of the transition. Erdoğan, who became the first directly elected president in Turkey last August, claimed the current parliamentary system has become an impediment to Turkey’s further economic and social development. The AK Party has based its election campaign on replacing the Constitution, which was introduced in 1982 by the military junta, and on introducing a presidential system.

Repeating his previous remarks stressing the necessity of shifting to a presidential system to ensure political stability, Erdoğan said a system lacking updates that adapts it to the altering global order could create crises in the country. He asserted a presidential system would contribute to the peace and stability of the country.

In response to concerns voiced by opposition parties over whether a presidential system will preserve the separation of powers, Erdoğan said that checks and balances would be installed stronger than ever in a presidential system, which he has been saying would be in the best interest of Turkey.

Erdoğan also brought up the recent decision of Italy to put an end to coalition governments. Reiterating his claim that coalition governments cripple swift execution of decisions, he said it was a well-founded decision by the country to approve a fresh system that does away with coalition governments.

Italy recently approved a new electoral system that bans coalition governments, something that has been blamed for the country’s tiresome economic crisis and political instability, a problem also reflected in Ankara. Italy has included a new regulation in its electoral system, titled “Italicum,” bringing to an end the era of coalition governments. From now on, 40 percent of the total vote will be enough for a party to come to power as a majority.

Alluding to the recent elections in the U.K. that led to the resignation of three opposition leaders who suffered crushing election defeats in the U.K.’s general election in early May, Erdoğan also criticized Turkish leaders who refuse to step down despite failure in elections.

“None of them comes up and says, ‘If I lose in the elections, I quit.’ Prime Minister [Ahmet Davutoğlu] can say it, why can’t you?” he asked addressing opposition parties’ leaders.

The entire world of Turkish politics has been caught up in the debate about whether the country needs a presidential system to replace the current parliamentary government, a move strongly backed by the AK Party government and Erdoğan. However, there has been strong opposition to the issue since Erdoğan brought it up. Erdoğan, in his speech at the panel, explained the basis of the reactions against the move: “Their opposition is not in principal, but personal.”

Erdoğan also argued against the idea that a possible presidential system in Turkey might turn the government into a dictatorship. He said: “A president who accounts to the nation can not turn out to be a dictator.”

According to the current Constitution, such an amendment requires the approval of two-thirds of Parliament, the votes of 367 out of 550 lawmakers. Only then can the president approve it or hold a referendum on the matter.

However, at the moment, the AK Party does not have enough seats in Parliament to vote for a constitutional change, such as the introduction of a presidential system, without opposition.

At every chance, Erdoğan has said that he would be an active president instead of a symbolic one. He previously had said: “As the first democratically elected president of Turkey, it is out of the question for me to close the door of the presidency to the people,” and added that the presidential post exists to respond to the needs of the people and the country, and highlighted once again that he is in favor of an active presidential role rather than the current system where the president is mainly symbolic.

Turkey will hold parliamentary elections on June 7. It is expected that all the details of a presidential system will be brought to the table after the June 7 general elections.

A constitutional amendment, or a new constitution would be needed to set up a presidential system. The country’s current Constitution was drafted two years after a military takeover in 1980 and numerous amendments have been made to it since.

The governmental system has been a hotly debated issue throughout modern Turkey’s history beginning with the eighth president, Turgut Özal, and continuing with the ninth president, Süleyman Demirel. Erdoğan has brought it up once again, claiming that a presidential system is more suitable to the country’s political structure.

Resource: Daily Sabah, May 25, 2015

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