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Turkey - Politics - Background

The current political system in Turkey was established following the September 1980 coup. Immediately following the coup, the military government arrested Turkey's leading politicians, dissolved the bicameral Grand National Assembly, declared martial law, and banned all political activity. In October 1981, all political parties then in existence were disbanded and their property and financial assets confiscated by the state. In April 1983, the Turkish National Security Council (NSC), a five-member collective body representing all branches of the armed forces, issued regulations for the formation of new political parties in anticipation of elections for a new single-chamber National Assembly to be held later that year. These new parties could have no ties to the disbanded parties.that year

Parties were invited to form so as to contest parliamentary elections later in the year but were required to receive approval from the military rulers. Of fifteen parties requesting certification, only three received approval: the Motherland Party (Anavatan Partisi--ANAP), the Populist Party (Halki Partisi--HP), and the Nationalist Democracy Party (Milliyeti Demokrasi Partisi--MDP), the latter being the clear favorite of the military.

The NSC scheduled the first elections under the 1982 constitution for November 1983. The new National Assembly convened soon after the elections, and subsequently a civilian government consisting of a prime minister and a Council of Ministers was formed. In late 1983 and early 1984, the NSC turned over its executive and legislative functions to these new institutions.

The Turkish political system faced four distinct but intertwined challenges in the mid 1990's: accommodating the disaffected Kurdish ethnic minority; reconciling the growing differences, expressed with increasing stridency between the secular elite and groups using traditional Islamic symbols to manifest their opposition to the political status quo; establishing firm civilian control over the military, which had a long history of intervening in the political process; and strengthening weak democratic practices and institutions.

In the November 2002 election of Turkey's 58th government, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) captured 34.3% of the total votes, making Abdullah Gul Prime Minister, followed by the Republican People's Party (CHP) with 19.39% of the vote, led by Deniz Baykal. A special general election was held again in the province of Siirt in March 2003, resulting in the election of AKP's chairman Recep Tayyip Erdogan to a seat in Parliament, allowing him to become prime minister and solidifying AKP's position in Parliament.

The Turkish Grand National Assembly was to have elected in May 2007 a new president to succeed President Sezer, whose term ended on May 16. Opposition parties led a Constitutional Court challenge to the electoral procedures, which resulted in a series of proposed constitutional amendments and early general elections on 22 July 2007.

The 1982 Constitution, drafted by the military in the wake of the 1980 coup, proclaimed Turkey's system of government as democratic, secular, and parliamentary. The presidency's powers were not precisely defined in practice, and the president's influence depended on his personality and political weight. The president and the Council of Ministers, led by the prime minister, share executive powers. The president, who had broad powers of appointment and supervision, would be chosen by Parliament for a term of 7 years and cannot be reelected. The prime minister would administer the government. The prime minister and the Council of Ministers were responsible to Parliament.

In May 2007, Turkey's parliament moved to adopt a constitutional amendment allowing for direct presidential elections, with 370 ministers of parliament in favor. The proposal to hold direct presidential elections would also allow Turkey's president to be elected for two five-year terms rather than one seven-year term. The proposal, based on France's two-round election system, stipulated that if no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the votes in the first round, the two top names would compete in a second round.

In the 22 July 2007 general elections, Turkish voters let three political parties - the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) - win seats in Parliament for the next five-year term. The AKP won another single-party turn in government with 46.6% of the vote. The CHP kept its place as the main opposition party in Parliament with 20.9% of the vote, while the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) got 14.3%, and independent candidates got 5.3%. When Parliament convened, one seat was vacant as Professor Mehmet Cihat znder, who was elected a deputy from MHP, died in a traffic accident in Ankara on July 26. Thus, 549 deputies are in the new parliament. Voter turnout was 84.16%.

On 13 August 2007, the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party nominated Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Gl as its candidate to become president. Gl was nominated during the AK Party's Central Executive Board (MYK) meeting. Gl met opposition leaders on August 14, and the first round of the election was held six days later. In the first round of balloting in Parliament, Gl fell short of the 341 votes needed to be elected. Gl competed against the Nationalist Movement Party's (MHP) Sebahattin akmakoglu and the Democratic Left Party's (DSP) Tayfun Gli. akmakoglu secured 70 votes, while Gli won just 13. The ballot was secret, but Gl appears to have secured the support of all 340 AK Party deputies and also that of Muhsin Yazicioglu, representative of the one-seat Grand Union Party (BBP).

With all parties other than the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) present, 448 deputies were in Parliament. The MHP and DSP deputies were there to support their candidates, while the Democratic Society Party (DTP) took part in the vote but apparently declined to support Gl. Since the president also could not be elected in the second round of balloting on August 24, a third round was held on August 28, making Abdullah Gl Turkey's 11th president.

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Page last modified: 22-08-2014 19:04:02 ZULU