Can one man do it all? Turkey is about to find out
ISTANBUL (AP) â" Days before his victory in last weekendâs elections, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan unveiled his plans for a revamped state structure of administrative offices, policy councils and ministries. A visual representation of it on the official news agency brought comparisons to a âsolar systemâ â" with all bodies orbiting around the president.
âThis is the Turkey brand . and its patent belongs to us,â Erdogan announced. He said the new system would strengthen democracy and the separation of powers, while bringing speed and efficiency to public services. It was made possible by constitutional changes narrowly approved in a referendum last year, and among its many changes, it does away with the office of prime minister in favor of an executive presidency.
Critics warn that it effectively represents âone-man rule,â with no state body strong enough to check Er doganâs authority. But there does remain a sliver of hope â" Erdoganâs success in the presidential race was not repeated in the parliamentary elections; he does not have full hold of parliament without relying on a precarious ally, and the opposition may still challenge him.
Parliament will have âmuch-reduced powers in checking the executive,â said Serhat Guvenc, of Kadir Has University, adding that in his view the shift marks an end to Turksâ experiment with parliamentary governance after nearly a century and a half. âWe donât know how the new system will operate,â he said, arguing that neither do its designers.
But the amended laws do leave a small space for checks and balances, making control of the 600-seat parliament crucial.
Under the new system, Erdogan will need parliamentary approval for his budget, giving the assembly some control over government spending. Parliament can also shorten, extend or cancel a state of emergency, and presidential decrees passed during emergency rule must be approved within 90 days or become void. Parliament can also pass legislation annulling a presidential decree on the same issue, and with 360 votes it can call early elections.
Erdoganâs Justice and Development Party, or AKP, saw a nearly 7 percent drop in support and is six seats short of a majority. It will have to depend on its alliance with the small Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, which with its 49 lawmakers finds itself in the position of kingmaker. Erdogan had pushed for an executive presidency to end parliamentary coalitions, arguing they cause instability, but now heâs forced into one.
MHP leader Devlet Bahceli reiterated his support for Erdogan Sunday night, but he is âa fickle character, difficult, very challenging to deal with,â said Fadi Hakura of think tank Chatham Houseâs Turkey project. He said Bahceli now sees himself as Erdoganâs âco-equal,â and the anti-Western party could hold the AKP hostage by pressing for its nationalist and populist interests that are further to the right than Erdoganâs.
The chairman of the main opposition Republican Peopleâs Party, or CHP, said Erdoganâs parliamentary loss would cripple him. âYesterdayâs strongman is todayâs lame duck,â Kemal Kilicdaroglu said on Tuesday, even as he refused to reflect on his own partyâs shortcomings.
University of Graz professor Kerem Oktem says an organized and dogged opposition would have some room to âcarve out a place for itself, as a second place of powerâ in parliament, and make itself heard.
Despite an election campaign that international observers say was neither free nor fair, Turkeyâs various opposition parties mounted a significant challenge in the elections, and may continue to do.
The pro-Kurdish Peoplesâ Democratic Party, which Erdogan tries to delegitimize as âterrorists,â passed an electoral threshol d to enter parliament even though nine of its lawmakers and thousands of party members are behind bars. The nascent nationalist Good Party is also now an actor in Turkish politics.
The secular CHP saw a nearly three percentage-point drop in its support that previously stood at a quarter of the electorate, and there are already cracks within the party, with mounting calls for party management to resign and renew. But Kilicdaroglu has stood firm, saying the opposition was successful in bringing all of Turkeyâs âcolorsâ to parliament and vowing to reinstitute and protect a stronger assembly.
Beyond the parliament, Erdoganâs authority remains strong. The country has had a worrying track record on rights, with a stifled judiciary since an attempted coup on Erdogan and his government in July 2016. Under a state of emergency still in place, Turkish authorities have arrested more than 50,000 people and sacked some 110,000 civil servants, including thousands of judges a nd prosecutors. Hundreds of media and nongovernmental organizations were shuttered and limits to demonstrations imposed.
The crackdown has widened to also include opposition lawmakers, journalists, activists and other dissenting voices. The countryâs prison population has swollen to more than 230,000, with nearly half of them held in pre-trial detention without any conviction, according to the World Prison Brief database.
Muharrem Ince â" the CHPâs presidential candidate â" in his concession speech Monday described Erdoganâs plan as âone man becoming the executive, legislative and judiciaryâ and called it a threat to the countryâs survival. After 15 years at Turkeyâs helm â" first as prime minister and then president â" Erdogan will now be able to institute changes through presidential decrees, and appoint vice presidents, ministers and top bureaucrats.
But he will have his hands full with myriad security issues and a looming eco nomic crisis. âWe will see whether itâs possible to respond to those questions adequately if you are effectively a one-person regime,â said Turkey expert Oktem.
Associated Press writers Suzan Fraser in Ankara and Elena Becatoros and Neyran Elden in Istanbul contributed.Source: Google News Turkey | Netizen 24 Turkey