Countdown to a presidential system in Turkey | Middle East| News and analysis of events in the Arab world | DW | 02.12.2016
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Middle East

Countdown to a presidential system in Turkey

In Ankara, the ruling AKP party and the opposition MHP have agreed on a transition to a presidential system. Both sides have agreed to call the new political model a Partisan Presidency. What exactly will this system be?

The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) have agreed to submit a proposal to parliament next week to amend the constitution to turn Turkey into a presidential system. 330 votes are needed for the proposal to pass parliament. However, since there are dissenting voices against an executive system within the MHP, as well as the AKP, there is a chance that the 330 votes may not be reached. The AKP is counting on public support and plans to put the new system to a vote in a referendum early next summer. So, what exactly is in the proposal to be submitted to parliament?

1.  What kind of presidial system will the constitutional amendment entail?

The AKP and the MHP have agreed in principle on a constitutional amendment that would implement what they're calling a "Partisan Presidency." Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has also stated that "With this amendment, the president, if elected, would be able to keep his ties to a political party. This is the biggest change we would make." The system is based upon one parliament and a unitary structure. The president, who unlike in the current system will keep his ties to his party, will have a chance to be elected for a five year term, twice. If the current proposal isn't revised, the president will also be the head of government with this new system. The president will take on the prime minister's duties and there won't be a prime minister. There are also two different elections planned for the presidential system. One election is planned for the legislature and another for the executive, meaning the government. Thus, it is argued that the presidential system would be legitimized twice.

2.  When will the presidential elections be held?

Erdogan was elected in 2014 and his tenure ends in 2019. The AKP's goal is to put the new system in effect in 2019 with a transition period until then. 

3.  Does the proposal include restoring capital punishment?

The constitutional amendment package does not include capital punishment. The AKP plans to propose this to the MHP in a separate draft. Devlet Bahceli, the leader of the MHP, wants capital punishment to be restored and wants the proposal to be brought to a vote in parliament as soon as possible.

Paris Kurden Demonstration gegen Erdogan (picture-alliance/AP Photo/Francois Mori)

Kurds and other opposition groups are wary of the concentration of power in Erdogan's hands

4.  How will the constitution be amended in parliament?

It will all be done according to Article 175 of the constitution. The AKP will put a constitutional amendment proposal before parliament. For the amendment to be passed, 330 "yes" votes must be reached in a secret ballot. After President Erdogan approves the draft, it is expected to be put to a referendum for public approval. If it passes the referendum, it will become law.

5.  When will the referendum be held?

The AKP government stated that the referendum could be held in April 2017. Arguments over the state of emergency continuing until that date makes holding a referendum complicated. While the AKP is stating that it wishes to end the state of emergency before the referendum, President Erdogan has stated that it will continue as long as it is deemed necessary and if the referendum is held while it continues, that should be accepted as normal.

6.  What will the CHP and the HDP do?

The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) objects to the presidential system and plans to explain to the public how the system is not suitable for Turkey through a series of rallies it has titled "We will not let Turkey be divided." The Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), which has opposed a presidential system since the beginning with the slogan "We will not let you become the president," worry that it would only strengthen authoritarian one-man rule.

7.  What does the future hold for Turkey? 

The ruling AKP argues that the parliamentary system is ineffective and once the presidential system is in effect, problems will be solved faster and there will be no more political crises. Legal experts agree that the planned presidential system will strengthen President Erdogan's grip on power. There are worries that, in future, this "one-man rule" will only grow stronger and undermine the democratic system.


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