Opinion: Trial run for Turkey′s presidential system | Opinion | DW | 21.07.2016
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Opinion

Opinion: Trial run for Turkey's presidential system

Turkey's state of emergency gives President Erdogan far-reaching powers. The attempted putsch was an enormous threat to the country's democracy - but what is happening now is as well, says Reinhard Baumgarten.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan can have whatever he needs. For the next three months he will be allowed to rule the country by presidential decree. He has been doing so for a while, but now he has the necessary constitutional basis for it. That is important to him, and it is why he is so intent on changing Turkey's constitution.

He seeks to make the principle of a presidential system the law of the land.

Erdogan's desire for democratic legitimacy

He could simply ignore the hindrance, as he is already wielding power alone anyhow. Nevertheless, Erdogan feels a democratic legitimization of his omnipotence is of great importance. He also scores points with supporters for it, something he - the first president of the Republic of Turkey to be directly elected by the people - refers to every chance he gets.

Reinhard Baumgarten

Reinhard Baumgarten is the Istanbul correspondent for German broadcaster ARD

He called the coup "a gift from god" on the night that it took place. Erdogan is using the opportunity to settle scores with real and supposed enemies.

Turkey's president will use the new state of emergency as a dry run. He will divide and conquer: with his style of leadership he will starkly separate the people into camps of those who are for and against him. That has been the lesson of the last several days and nights. The polarization of Turkish society will continue to intensify.

As skeptical as one may be about President Erdogan, one must not overlook the gravity of the situation that Turkey found itself in on the night of the coup attempt. Many of the measures initiated by Erdogan to date have served to hollow out Turkish democracy, and he is thus viewed with a fundamental degree of mistrust, especially in Germany.

Still, the more details one learns about the plans and aims of the putschists, the scarier the scenario becomes. A military junta would have brought great suffering to the country. It would have set Turkey back years, if not decades.

A new era

Turkey, it seems, has narrowly avoided a potential catastrophe. Now authorities must see to it that the scenario does not repeat itself. President Erdogan must not use the state of emergency to initiate a so-called "white putsch" in order to attain his political aims. In light of the political reality in Turkey, however, that seems like a pious hope.

The putschists prepared for their attempted coup far in advance. Yet for much longer, Erdogan has been getting ready for the purge that he began on the night of the attempted coup.

The fact that his most inner circles are permeated with actual or suspected Gulen supporters will only serve to increase his desire to clean up. And in a worst-case scenario the political paranoia of the Turkish leadership, convinced it is surrounded by enemies and conspirators, will only increase.

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