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The Executive President

In Turkey, constitutionally, the prime minister has executive authority. But under Erdogan, th country witnessed a governance where the president has taken the initiative to speak on almost all executive matters. Erdogan, the first president elected by the people, is pushing for constitutional reform to extend his presidential powers.

Voters in Turkey went to the polls June 12, 2011, and with the country enjoying record economic growth the prime minister won a third term in office by a comfortable majority. The prime minister fell more than 40 seats short of his declared goal of a two-thirds parliamentary majority, which was needed to replace the 1982 constitution. Erdogan did not realize his goal largely because candidates supported by the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy party defeated candidates from the prime minister's party. The pro-Kurdish party increased its representation from 20 to more than 30 seats. The election served to underline the increasing power of Turkey's Kurdish rights movement. The Kurdish rights issue was predicted to be one of most important and contentious aspects of any new constitution. While the prime minister still has a massive parliamentary majority of more than 100 seats, he would have to seek support from at least another party to pass a new constitution.

The AKP party bylaws limited a prime minister to two terms in office. The party focused on establishing a presidential system that would make Recep Tayyip Erdogan a powerful president in the next decade. But the powerful presidency Erdogan hoped to run may not happen anytime soon, if at all. Erdogan’s strategy of achieving constitutional change seemed a lot less likely than what was the case before the Gezi Park protests. Even some members of Erdogan's own party were not eager to introduce a strong presidential system in Turkey.

Turkey held a presidential election on 10 August 2014 as incumbent Abdullah Gul's seven-year term expired. The president had previously been chosen by parliament and played a largely ceremonial role, but the election will give the presidency more authority. Turkey's election commission said 10 August 2014 that with nearly all the votes counted, provisional results show Erdogan won an absolute majority of the vote. The results showed him easily outdistancing two opponents, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, former chief of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, who collected about 39 percent of the vote, and Kurdish candidate Selahattin Demirtas with nine percent.

With a general election due in less than a year, finding a leader that can keep his party united -- while at the same time is loyal enough to maintain his power -- was seen as a key challenge facing Erdogan. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who had strong support within the party bureaucracy and had been Erdogan's right-hand man internationally, was the top choice to succeed him, although former transport minister Binali Yildirimis was also trying to position himself for the job.

President Abdullah Gul, long seen as a potential future prime minister, signaled a return to politics after his term expires on August 28, saying he would play a role in the ruling AK Party he co-founded with Erdogan. Gul could not become prime minister immediately as he is not currently a member of parliament, although his role could change after parliamentary elections due in 2015. Gul had the expectation he would be the prime minister again. However, Erdogan had an idea to purge the founders of the party and implant a new group of politicians in their late thirties and early forties.

Turkey’s ruling party appointed Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu as its new chair and the nation’s prime minister to replace Tayyip Erdogan as he takes office as president. “I believe our candidate for party leadership and prime minister will realize the ideal of a new Turkey and the AKP’s targets for 2023” when modern Turkey celebrates its 100th anniversary, Erdogan said after the gathering. Davutoglu’s nomination awaited formal approval from the AK Party’s extraordinary congress on August 27, a day before Erdogan’s inauguration as Turkey’s 12th president.

Erdogan would try to bring about a centralized presidential system - as in France. He said during the campaign he would exercise the full powers of the presidency under Turkey's existing laws, including the authority to call parliament, summon Cabinet meetings and appoint prime ministers, the council of ministers and some high court judges.

Erdogan was expected to reject the largely ceremonial role performed by previous presidents. Being directly elected instead of being chosen by parliament would give him a greater mandate, he said. "The fact that the president will be elected by the people is a turning point for democracy," he said, adding that "the presidency will not be a place of rest." Erdogan's critics have pointed out his increasingly authoritarian and polarizing style of rule, including his branding of opponents as "traitors" and "terrorists". Huge electoral success and the lack of other powerful charismatic opposition figures gave Erdogan the feeling he was infallible.

The 2015 election deprived the AKP of its parliamentary majority, thereby derailing President Erdogan's plans to change the constitution to extend his grip on power. PM Davutoglu announced the AKP was dropping its bid to create an executive presidency, saying the electorate had given its verdict. The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) won 132 seats on June 7, while the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the leftist Peoples Democratic Party (HDP) each received 80. The AKP has 258 seats in the 550-member Parliament.

Turkey’s nationalists closed the door 20 June 2015 on forming a coalition with the country’s main opposition party, seemingly setting the stage either for new parliamentary elections or for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to remain in power with nationalist support. The price for that, however, could be the end of peace talks between Ankara and the Kurds, and reducing the power wielded by Erdogan.

The public increasingly turned against the kind of presidency they fear Erdogan envisages, which is nothing like the French or American forms of government with strong and independent legislatures and judiciaries, but a one-man presidential system where he, as president, would decide on any law, as well as decisions regarding personnel appointments, banks, foreign policy, courts, and, say, the headlines of daily newspapers and who should moderate which talk show on which popular TV channel. Erdogan has been rehearsing his version of the presidential system for some time. Although not backed by the current constitution, he has tried to intervene in every aspect of the country’s political, economic, social, and media life.

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Page last modified: 15-07-2016 19:24:11 ZULU