Global Independent Analytics
Miray Aslan
Miray Aslan

Location: Turkey

Specialization: Media, Politics

THE SULTAN HAS NO CLOTHES

A new fairy tale which was written by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's team!

Have you ever heard about the short tale written by Hans Andersen in  which an Emperor was looking for a new suit and the weavers promised him a new invisible suit of clothes? When the emperor parades before his subjects in his invisible clothes, no one dares to say that he is not wearing anything, until a child screams out that "the emperor has no clothes." Nowadays this fairytale's orientalist version is being rewritten by Erdogan's team.  Erdogan who has failed in his foreign policy, economy and internal affairs is now totally focused on being an executive president 'looking for a new clothes to wear.’  Who is going to say "the Sultan has no clothes”?

Turkey has been discussing the rewriting of the Constitution for years but nowadays the politicians are stepping forward to it. Turkey is still ruled by the 1982 Constitution which was the product of the military’s intervention. On 12 September 1980, the National Security Council headed by Chief of the General Staff Kenan Evren overthrew the civilian government and declared a Turkish military coup on the national channel.  The National Security Council then abolished the Parliament. In 1982 a new Constitution was written; the military ruled Turkey until 1983.

A NEW CONSTITUTION IS A MUST BUT...

Almost from its inception, the 1982 Constitution met severe criticism. It has consequently undergone 17 amendments.  It is generally agreed that the amendments are no longer sufficient and Turkey needs an entirely new constitution. However, this is the only thing that political parties agree on.  Almost all political parties have their own ideas on new systems, how to rewrite the Constitution and how to reshape governance. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and most MP's of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) are lining up with the Presidential System.  The pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party is fighting for autonomy while the Republican People's Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) are for a stronger parliamentary system.

Turkish President Erdogan has started his campaign with the program named “All Together for New Constitution.”  According to Erdogan: “the head of state, elected by the people, must have more than a symbolic role” and the current system is bad because “it is double-headed so the new constitution should be prepared in accordance with the executive presidential system."  It is certain that constitutional reform is not possible without political compromise as technically Erdogan would need the support of 367 of the 550 deputies to amend the Constitution directly. He would then need 330 MPs to agree to take the proposal to a nationwide referendum. AKP has 317 seats but some of the MP's are not supporting a presidential system. According to some political rumors, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is not for a presidential system.

TURKISH STYLE or ERDOGAN STYLE?

In an interview with the state-run TRT network on January 29, Erdogan asked “the system in England is a semi-presidential one in which the operative factor is the queen. Is there a sultanate in the US? It’s not a sultanate if it is the US, Brazil, South Korea or Mexico. So why does it become a sultanate when the idea is advocated for Turkey?”  Actually, the answer is hidden in his own words. As he started his campaign named “All Together for New Constitution” he explained that the presidential system would be totally different from US, Brazil or anywhere else. Erdogan called for "Turkish Style," saying “all the constitutions that have been established in Turkey so far were all imported; they were not national at all. Those imported mindsets dominated us. Now, we are returning to a domestic and national one" – i.e. based on having full control over both the executive and the legislative branches of the government. I called it Erdogan Style since most of the autonomous institutions including the Central Bank, the judiciary, and the Constitutional Court, would be tied to the presidency. Heads of the universities are already appointed by the President. The opposition also strictly objects to this “Turkish-style” presidential system which they say seeks to consolidate all powers in the hands of one man.

THE KURDS FIGHT FOR AUTONOMY

On the other hand, other parties are strongly against a presidential system. In the elections held on June 7, “We won’t let you become an executive president” was the main slogan of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP).  It is planning to hold rallies in favor of “autonomy” and “self-rule” in the country. HDP’s co-chair Feigen Yuksekdag said in a parliamentary group meeting on December 29:  “Autonomy is a right. We will go on defending this demand.” Since late July, Turkey has been in a renewed conflict with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Since then clashes between the Turkish government and Kurdish forces continue in southeastern towns. The government imposed curfews in cities like Diyarbakır and Şırnak and Kurdish militants are fighting Turkish Military in the streets. HDP’s other co-chair Selahaddin Demirtas said in a parliamentary group meeting “This resistance will end with the victory, and everybody will respect the people’s will. Kurds will, from now on, from the political will in their own region. During these days when a historical breaking point is emerging, our people will decide whether [to live in] a dictatorship or [in] freedom and whether to live under one man’s tyranny or in autonomy.”   HDP is aiming to formalize a self-rule system by a new Constitution.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu spoke about autonomy in the Kurdish regions on January 6: “now they started to speak of autonomy, self-governance. You are spending the money entrusted to you in anything but the investment. People await services, these gentlemen dig ditches, build barricades, use the facilities for these." Davutoglu was blaming HDP's municipalities of supporting "terrorists" with the facilities of the municipalities. In  several provinces where locals support HDP, mayors of provinces  were jailed due to "self-rule" declarations.

ERDOGAN: SET ASIDE THE LEGISLATION

Erdogan described HDP's call for autonomy as “treason” saying “what the co-leader has done is clearly a provocation, treason."  Hosting district governors in his presidential palace Erdogan said that when necessary they can put aside formal legislation regarding fighting terrorism when it comes to the mainly Kurdish Southeast region. Erdogan backed his words, “If necessary, set aside the legislation.” The President does not believe in laws, apparently. Speaking at a press conference, Republican People's Party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroglu accused the president of violating the Constitution. Erdogan had urged the parliament to strip HDP lawmakers of their immunity from prosecution, in order to make them “pay the price” for autonomy declarations and for having links to the PKK. Under Turkish law, members of parliament have immunity from prosecution. HDP's Demirtas explained that "with my 80 friends, we will submit a petition to the parliament to lift our immunity, if you (Erdogan) are not afraid, let’s lift immunities altogether.” According to Demirtas, Erdogan, and his cabinet’s hands are covered in blood; they are involved in corruption in the millions of dollars.

CLAP CLAP CLAP

Turkey is tired of instability due to the last two elections. The tourism, trade, economy of the country are almost frozen while society is stressed and polarized. Due to the war in the Kurdish region, discussions on the process of rewriting the new constitution in parliament are not really active. Turkey is on the edge of a big civil war; it’s a dangerous situation. Each day of instability means more economic loss, more polarization, more danger,  bigger conflicts, a powerless country. In short, Turkey is wasting time with the discussions on the new presidential system. Not only Erdogan but also his supporters are responsible for the bad situation of Turkey.

Because the cabinet members, MP's, and political advisers are just trying to take advantage of governmental power, it does not matter what Erdogan says or does, his circle of intimates have only one comment: "clap clap clap."  By the way, let's assume that Erdogan will reach his mission and will be an executive president at the end, do you think that being the executive president of a ruinous Turkey is  better than being president of a strong standing Turkey?  Moreover, do you think that being a sultan with no clothes is better than being president?

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