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The President

1Mustafa Kemal Atatürk19231938
2Issmet Ionönü19381950
3Celal Bayar19501960
4Cemal Gürsel19601966
5Cevdet Sunay19661973
6Fahri Korutürk19731980
7Kenan Evren19801989
8Turgut Özal19891993
9Süleyman Demirel19932000
10Ahmet Necdet Sezer20002007
11Abdullah Gül20072014
12Recep Tayyip Erdogan2014-
The presidency's powers are not precisely defined in practice, and the president's influence depends on his personality and political weight. The President of the Republic is the Head of the State. He/she represents the Republic of Turkey and the unity of the Turkish nation. Until 2007 the President was elected for a seven-year term by a two-thirds majority of the full membership of the TGNA. Recent constitutional amendments, accepted through a nation-wide referendum on 21 October 2007, made the President potentially even more powerful by introducing the principle of 'popular election of the President'.

The time of the next presidential election was subject to heated discussions. As the term of the President was reduced to 5 years, some argue that Abdullah Gül's term ended in 2012. Others point out that Gül was elected when the term of the President was still 7 years; in this line of thought the next presidential election should be held in 2014. The year 2012 came and went with no presidential election. Turkish citizens of at least forty years in age can be elected President by the TGNA's secret ballot process. They can be either deputies who have received a higher education or those who are qualified to be elected as a deputy. A President cannot be elected for a second term in office.

The President of the Republic has functions and authority related to the legislative, executive and judicial fields. His/her functions in the legislative fields are to convene the TGNA when necessary, to publish laws and when deemed necessary, to send them back to the Parliament for discussion, to hold a referendum in Constitutional amendments when he/she considers it necessary, to file suit with the Constitutional Court claiming a violation of Constitutional law, to issue decrees with the power of law and regulate the internal workings of the Parliament and to decide when new TGNA elections are necessary.

The executive duties of the President are: to appoint or accept the resignation of the Prime Minister, to appoint or dismiss Ministers in the event that he deems it necessary, to chair meetings of the Council of Ministers or summon the Council to meet under his chairmanship, to appoint accredited envoys to represent the Turkish State abroad and receive representatives of foreign states, to ratify and publish international agreements, to proclaim martial law or impose a state of emergency by a decree to be decided by the Council of Ministers meeting under his chairmanship, and to issue decrees with the power of law, to approve decrees as signatory, to commute or pardon the sentences of certain convicts on the grounds of old age, chronic illness or infirmity, to appoint the members and President of the State Auditory Council, to conduct investigations, enquires and research through the State Auditory Council, to select the members of the Higher Education Council, and to appoint University Chancellors.

The President of the Republic acts as the Commander-in-Chief of the Turkish Armed Forces, appoints the Chief of General Staff, convenes the National Security Council and chairs meetings of the Council. Duties and authority of the President related to the judiciary are to appoint: members of the Constitutional Court, one fourth of the members of the Supreme Court of Appeals, members of the Supreme Military Appeals Tribunal, members of the Supreme Council of Judges and Public Prosecutors. No appeal may be made to any legal body, including the Constitutional Court, against decrees and presidential orders signed directly by the President of the Republic. The President of the Republic may be impeached for high treason.

Since the Turkish president holds more powers than a classical parliamentary president, Turkey has experienced 'cohabitation-like' situations in the past. Both 'partisan' and 'guardian' presidents confronted the parliamentary majority and the Prime Minister, backed by the latter, as in the cases of 'Özal vs. Evren'; 'Demirel vs. Özal'; 'Erdoğan vs. Sezer'. Even those periods in which the President and the Prime Minister were from the same party (Yılmaz vs. Özal) or shared the same world view (Ecevit vs. Sezer), saw implacable struggles between these actors.

The principle of popular election of the President could exacerbate the situation in the long run. The adoption of the principle of popular election of the president was not part of a well thought-out and well-designed constitutional engineering scheme; rather, it was a reaction to an escalating crisis concerning the election of the President by Parliament.

In November 2012, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) officially announced its goal of introducing a “Turkified version of the US executive system.” This was not the first time the AKP advocated a strengthened executive branch; the office of the presidency was previously bolstered by a 2007 amendment declaring the position would be elected by popular vote and have slightly more power to influence the legislative process.

The presidency that Erdogan envisioned would be substantially more powerful and independent than the 2007 amendment dictated. Instead of playing a primarily ceremonial role, this proposal gave the president power to dissolve Parliament and appoint and dismiss ministers, ambassadors, and senior officials without parliamentary approval. The AKP and others in favor of the proposal argue that this system will be more stable and efficient, ridding Turkey of the fragile coalitions and political bickering that plagued their parliamentary system in the past.

Critics, however, saw the plan as a ‘power-grab’ by Erdogan, who intended to run for president if it passes. Public opinion polls were also dubious of the plan. The AKP held 326 out of 550 parliamentary seats, denying them the supermajority required to amend the constitution unilaterally. Thus the AKP must win the support of at least one more party to rewrite Turkey’s military-penned 1982 constitution. The prime ministerial term limit was imposed by internal AKP rules, rather than the Constitution.

Since switching from the premiership with his August 2014 election to the presidency, Erdogan had been grabbing more powers for himself and forming what opposition commentators claim is a "shadow government." It's part of an effort, they said, to reclaim power over ministers and the country’s parliament that he'd lost when he left the prime minister's office. He'd been prime minister since 2003.

Using a confidential decree to sidestep the 1982 constitution, Erdogan has increased the presidential staff dramatically, boosting the number of directorates from four to 13. New directorates include ones to oversee internal security, foreign relations, economy, defense, energy and investment.

Erdogan officials said the new units are being formed to help apprise the president of what ministers are doing. Critics argue that a parallel government appears to be developing, part and parcel of a tug they fear toward authoritarianism. There are serious concerns that the work of the directorates will go beyond monitoring and become intervention in planning, project formulation and implementation phases.

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Page last modified: 15-08-2017 16:20:05 ZULU