Reading of Turkey's constitutional amendments
Turkey has witnessed constitutional amendments over the past two years that have turned the country’s political regime from parliamentary to presidential giving more powers to the president. Such transformation has caused division between the secular trend and Kurds on the one hand and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and nationalists on the other.
The transformation of the regime into a presidential system has not been all of a sudden, as AKP has sought to turn the regime into presidential since it took power in November 2002. To this end, AKP passed constitutional amendments in 2007, making the post of president to be directly elected by the Turkish people.
That constitutional amendment came into effect in 2014, and Recep Tayyip Erdogan has become the first Turkish elected president and gradually gained more powers at the expense of authorities of the country’s prime minister.
AKP has drawn on the presidential system due to a number of reasons, most notably because of the foiled military coup in 2016. The party thought the transformation into a presidential system would give the president wider powers that would rein in the military institution.
Moreover, AKP strongly believes in the conspiracy theory of, as it believes that civilian powers seek to topple its rule by all means.
However, all the country’s political powers, which oppose the AKP, decisively rejected the military coup in 2016 and took part in the demonstrations against it. Therefore, the AKP’s allegations are totally wrong.
There was an exception when AKP lost the majority in the June 2015 elections, and Turkey’s political parties, excluding AKP, formed a coalition government. AKP then sought for an ally. However, the Kurds rejected an alliance with AKP. AKP felt like betrayed, especially as it had sacrificed its alliance with the nationalists to integrate the Kurds into the Turkish political life and end fighting between the Kurds and the Turkish army.
In November 2015, AKP had no choice but to call for early elections, in which it won a majority to form a one-party-led government. That also proves the AKP’s allegations are wrong.
The Operation Euphrates Shield, which was launched in 2016, was meant to unify the Turkish home front behind AKP as well as punishing the Kurds for failing Erdogan as they had rejected a coalition government with him.
In 2017, AKP and the nationalists held a referendum to pass the constitutional amendments by 51%, which indicates the division of the Turkish people over these amendments.
The amendments were expected to be in effect in 2019, but AKP and the nationalists held elections in June 2018 in an attempt to block the way for the opposition by shortening the time available for presidential campaigning.
The constitutional amendments reduced the age of candidates to run fort presidency and removed the military service restrictions. However, the amendments diminished he powers of the parliament regarding control over the executive authority.
In terms of separation of powers, the president has gained more powers over the judiciary and the legislature.
According to the amendments, the president can run for a third term in case the parliament topples the executive authority during his second term. So in that context, we find that the Turkish political system has missed the crucial advantage which characterizes a democratic presidential regime. For instance, in the United States, which is a good example in this regard, the vice president is elected to take office in in case of the president’s death or his resignation or removal by the Congress.
However, in Turkey, the president has the right to appoint deputies, and the elections to be held within 45 days after he leaves office.
In conclusion, the constitutional amendments have weakened the balance of power between the legislative control and the executive authority. However, the Turkish democracy has not completely failed as there is still a possibility of correction, especially if the opposition forces unite to back one man in the next presidential elections.