20 Şubat 2015 Cuma

Turkey’s irreversible way to Presidential System

Turkey has been in the high-speed process of reform since the ruling AK Party came into power in 2002 elections and today the hottest topic in daily life is whether the presidential system suitable and fits needs of Turkey or not. There have been various legal and illegal attempts such as unsuccessful coup d’état plots, efforts to block parliament during the election of Ex-President Abdullah Gül, Gezi Park protests and more recently corruption investigations in order  to topple down AK Party or at least diminish the leadership role of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan,  from very beginning of its victory in 2002. However, AK Party’s vote rate has increased in every new election which was %34 in 2002 compared to %49 in 2011. Nonetheless the result of the last presidential elections, in which first time Turkish people elected their president by themselves and resulted by the victory of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan by %52 votes, another prove of increased power of AK Party in Turkey.

In the meantime Turkey has developed a lot in terms of its foreign policy perspective, democracy standards and more importantly economic outlook which has been the basement for all development processes. One could be imprisoned just because of addressing Abdullah Öcalan, who is former leader of PKK and has been taking an important role within the negotiations between government and PKK terror organization, with the title Mr. which perceived as praising terror and terrorist activities according to law. Beside this and more important for me is that with the opening process which implemented by AK party government, today no one have any argument such as Kurds are not a nation and this problem can only solve by military measures. In addition to that AK Party governments did quite a lot on democratization process such as lifting the ban on headscarves, turning back the properties of minorities which extorted by the old governments of Turkey, addressing the Alawite people’s problems although have not been made any progress yet and so on. (For more please check: “The Silent Revolution: Turkey’s Democratic Change and Transformation Inventory 2002-2012) Needless to mention the most appreciated tremendous development in infrastructure, improvement in health sector, and increase on per capita income. In terms of foreign policy, AK Party has changed long lasts one-track foreign policy by implementing multidimensional perspective which paves way to diversified and increase trade volume that ease economic development of Turkey. Furthermore, AK Party’s foreign policy perspective which based on win-win strategy and stand with the oppressed people of the world accepted and appreciated by the long time suffered people of Turkey who have been neglected because of their religious, cultural, identity values under the bureaucratic, oligarchic Kemalist system.     

Thus, AK Party became a dominant party without any rival in Turkish politics. Moreover, surveys and expectations show that a forthcoming general election, which is going to be held in the beginning of June, will be resulted with a decisive victory of AK Party. The trend of increase in the votes of AK Party lies behind the motivation and aim of the reform process. AK Party has always been in favour of change and progress as it was case while opposition parties tried to block the presidential elections in 2007, referendum held with the proposal of AK Party in order to change the election system of president and Turkish society backed the proposal by almost %70 vote of yes to the question “should Turkish people directly elect to the president or not?”. This should be perceived as tragic experience or lesson by opposition parties because while they were trying to block AK Party to elect its candidate as a president in 2007, they enabled the change in constitution that actually gave chance for Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to become the first elected president of Turkey on 10 August 2014. This obviously shows that Turkish society is eager to change and development rather than keep “status quo”, which is the key word while defining opposition parties in Turkey.

Turkey's Presidential Palace in Ankara
With this aim of Turkish society to change and development, which President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan read carefully, the change from parliamentary system to presidential system is not a big deal. That’s why opposition side should more focus on debates and proposals for “what kind of presidential system should be good for Turkey?” rather than either trying to insult or block the attempts for change by using the term of “dictator” for Erdoğan and the argument suggests that Turkey became more authoritarian under the rule of AK Party and his founder leader Erdoğan. It is obvious that Turkey has faced with many undemocratic steps under the rule of AK Party within the 13 years period. However, those anti-democratic steps have been periodic and taken as protection measures when AK Party experienced threat from outside by the events such as Gezi Park, graft probe and so on. One should try to understand the motivation of government when faced with such occurred threats, which outsiders as such Gülen Movement and others have been part of. To be honest, despite the all periodic anti-democratic measures, AK Party has always been the most democratic political party in Turkish political life in general. No one ready to even dream about the old and bad days which were the results of instable political coalitions, bad economic situation and more importantly those were the times in which different religious, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds were not accepted by the state, even more excluded and not recognized. In those days every citizens of Turkey have to be Turk, Sunni, and did not have chance to practise religion as freely as like today.

Turkey is on the path which requires changes and developments in all areas such as education, local administrations, environmental issues, democratization matters and so on. Certainly, AK Party is the biggest candidate for overcoming the problems of Turkey such as ongoing peace process with PKK. Implementation of new constitution enables Turkey to be more democratic, prosperous country in which AK Party proposes the change in political system as replacing parliamentary system with presidential one. It should definitely be discussed with all details and more importantly the balance between powers must be provided. In today’s world no one give up from her/his own rights for the sake of president or state and the new constitution of Turkey has to put human rights and democracy in its basement. However, so called universal standards which were basically defined by the west of the world should not be considered as a compass since the hypocrisy which is made out of is visible everywhere. Turkey is capable and able to find its own model with the essence that has been part of its history and became inherent part of Turkish society. The essence of Turkey that consists of justice and peace should be the basement for the new constitution. We all have been hearing about the rule of law and human rights for a long time while those are the first things that have been forgotten many times in practise.             

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