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World

Turkey opposition fears 'dictatorship'

At President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's behest, the ruling AKP party wants to introduce a presidential system in Turkey. The country's political opposition is up in arms.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu doesn't mince his words. The head of the biggest Turkish opposition party, the CHP, believes that the introduction of a presidential system in the country would be tantamount to establishing a "dictatorship."

One thing seems clear: If Turkey were transformed from a parliamentary democracy to a presidential system under Recep Tayyip Erdogan, it would mean the strongman at the head of the country would become even more powerful.

A state of emergency has been in place in Turkey since the attempted coup last July, meaning that President Erdogan is able to rule by decree. At present, parliament has to approve these decrees retrospectively. Under the proposed presidential system, this parliamentary control would be dropped.

Added to this, the head of state would also be the head of government. In this position, Erdogan would be responsible for naming and removing all of his deputies and ministers. He would no longer be represented by the head of parliament but by his vice-presidents, and could decide for himself how many of these there would be.

Strong support from the AKP

The formal independence of the president, which has until now been a fixed element in the country's political system, would be abolished. Erdogan is not formally a member of the AKP, but he makes no bones about his support for his former party.

Türkei | Polizei blockiert Straße um Proteste vor dem Parlament gegen die Verfassungsänderung zu verhindern (Reuters/U. Bektas)

Police push back at a protest outside parliament against changes to the constitution

Approval for the reform within the AKP is correspondingly high. Mehmet Simsek, an AKP politician and deputy prime minister of Turkey, is not at all alarmed by the prospect of the concentration of so much power in one person's hands. On the contrary. Simsek sees only positives in the introduction of a presidential system. "The executive would be strengthened, for one thing, as the president of the country would be able to rule for five years completely independent of parliamentary fragmentation," he says. "Furthermore, we could abolish the 10 percent hurdle for entry into parliament, thereby achieving a fair representation of all population groups."

High barriers to reform

However, enthusiasm in the ranks of the AKP will not be enough to get the reform passed. The party doesn't have enough seats to push it through parliament on its own. Neither the pro-Kurdish HDP nor the Kemalist CHP share Simsek's optimism; they're strictly opposed to the introduction of a presidential system.

Dr. Christoph Ramm Universität Bern (Universität Bern)

Christoph Ramm of the University of Bern

Turkey expert Christoph Ramm from the University of Bern is skeptical, too. He says that in order to pass the reform, the AKP would need "to form an alliance, at least unofficially, with the right-wing nationalist MHP. Both parties pursue an isolationist, right-wing nationalist line. There's a lot of negotiation right now behind the scenes. The introduction of the death penalty is one of the subjects on the table."

This coalition won't give the AKP the necessary two-thirds majority, either - but with the MHP's votes it could schedule a referendum and let the people vote on the reform.

CHP leader Kilicdaroglu is dreading the next few weeks. For him, the fact that these suggestions are being at all made signifies the beginning of the end of "the 140-year-old parliamentary tradition" in Turkey.

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