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Presidential System Ignites Debate in Turkey | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Turkish PM Binali Yildirim. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Ankara-Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) plans to propose to parliament a Constitutional amendment to establish a presidential system based on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s plan to expand his powers and shrink the government’s authorities.

During AKP’s conference, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the proposal makes part of a new constitution that will be set for the country and that will be referred to the parliament soon, regardless of the position of “other” parties.

Yildirim used the word “others” to refer to the Republican People’s Party, one of the biggest opposition parties, and the Peoples’ Democratic Party, which backs the Kurds. The two parties have opposed the presidential system since it was proposed for the first time in 2013-2015 and when the AKP resumed talks about it a couple of weeks ago.

However, features of the presidential system, which will be included in the new constitution, have not been revealed yet, whether it will be like systems in France or the U.S. or like the presidential systems of the Middle East.

The new proposal has raised many questions and concerns in the Turkish community over fears of transforming the country’s democracy into a dictatorship.

The Nationalist Movement Party headed by Devlet Bahceli has approved the proposal of the new system. He recently made new statements during a keynote speech before his party’s representatives in the parliament, saying the final stance concerning the JDP’s proposal will be taken once it is discussed. He also noted that if the proposal was approved in the parliament, a popular referendum can be carried out without concerns.

Officials from the Justice and Development Party including Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdag have announced that the country will witness a referendum on the new constitution and presidential system by the beginning of 2017, and most probably between April and May.

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the head of the Republican People’s Party, criticized Bahceli for his position from the presidential system and ironically suggested to crown Erdogan as the only king of the country. Observers suggest that Bahceli has chosen to back the AKP’s proposal after he faced increasing pressure and threats from his party because of his policies.

Following his election in 2014, Erdogan reset the presidential system as one of his goals and called on the Turkish people to give the ruling party more than 400 seats in the parliament so it can adopt this system in June 2015. But this proposal faced opposition back then even among members of the AKP.

After the failed coup attempt in July, Erdogan sought to calm tension with the opposition. Therefore, he postponed talks on the presidential system and pledged to maintain rule with the current parliamentary system.

The constitutional amendment in Turkey needs the approval of 376 out of 550 members in the parliament. The AKP, which is represented by 317 MPs, needs support from other parties to pass such a proposal.

The Nationalist Movement Party, which has pledged to back the proposal of the new system, is represented by 40 seats in the parliament.