Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has called on the country’s main opposition party to lend support to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in its renewed efforts to enact a new constitution, suggesting such cooperation would eliminate the need to take a fresh charter to a referendum.
Erdoğan, however, also said the people of Turkey would definitely embrace a transition from the existing parliamentary system to a presidential system if the matter is subjected to a referendum, while underlining the utmost need for harmony with the prime minister in the formation of a new cabinet.
In an interview aired on ATV and A Haber on Nov. 18, Erdoğan noted that the AKP, which he helped found, did not possess a sufficient number of seats to take constitutional amendments to a referendum on its own.
According to unofficial results, the AKP secured 317 seats in the 550-member parliament. For a constitutional change in parliament in favor of the presidential system in line with Erdoğan’s aspirations, the AKP needed to win 367 seats, though 330 seats would be enough to take the issue to a referendum.
The president recalled that parliament’s now-dissolved Constitution Conciliation Committee had reached a consensus, in principle, on close to 60 articles.
“These 60 articles are not few in number. What needs to be done here? Now, even with the support of the main opposition party alone, these changes could be swiftly adopted by parliament without the need to resort to the national will,” he said, referring to the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).
Following a Nov. 1 election, the CHP made clear that it would extend conditional support to the AKP’s call to draft a new constitution while repeating clear-cut reservations about a transition to a presidential system.
Erdoğan argued that his aspirations for a presidential system was being distorted and presented as if it were “a personal matter” for him.
“When you look at our own history, there are examples of this in [our] history which is full of success,” Erdoğan said. “There was a presidential system in what Gazi Mustafa Kemal did as well. Let’s take the matter to the nation and let them make their choice. Whatever they say, we would accept it and march on our way,” he said, referring to the founder of the modern Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, together with his title of “veteran” (gazi).
Erdoğan is widely believed to want to rule as a more powerful, U.S.-style president by 2023, the 100th anniversary of the secular republic, rivaling Atatürk as the most powerful modern Turkish leader.
Synchronization and the cabinet
On Nov. 17, Erdoğan gave Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu the mandate to form a new government following the Nov. 1 election in which the AKP regained its parliamentary majority. Attention has now turned to their next meeting, during which Davutoğlu is expected to present his new cabinet list to the head of state for approval.
“As the president and as the head of the people, what solely matters to me is the formation of a cabinet that will be successful in the future because the forming of this successful cabinet, the joint movement of the president and the prime minister, and their display of a joint performance are important for the future of the country. If the president and the prime minister march to a different tune, then we will not be able to get any results. In this regard, our synchronization is especially very important,” he said.