The current parliamentary system in Turkey is out of date and the existing situation, in which both the prime minister and president are elected by the people, is unsustainable, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has stated, emphasizing his wish to hold a referendum over a new constitution and a transition to a presidential system while calling on civil society organizations and media to launch a grassroots campaign to this aim.
“Our current system is an anomaly. Running this system, with both the prime minister and the president elected, is exceptionally difficult,” Erdoğan said on Jan. 28, addressing a meeting on the prospects of a new constitution hosted by the Turkey Constitution Platform.
“Today, we are working in harmony as a president and a prime minister who came from the same political tradition and who have long worked together,” Erdoğan said.
Erdoğan had served as prime minister and head of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) from 2003 until elected president in August 2014, after which the party’s current leader, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, took over.
“How will this business run tomorrow if the president and the prime minister are from different political mindsets having different priorities?” Erdoğan asked, recalling that such complications were experienced in the early 1990s when Turgut Özal was president and Süleyman Demirel was prime minister.
“Won’t we a draw lesson from this? We need to draw,” Erdoğan said, noting he had faced such problems when he was serving as prime minister.
Lamenting the lack of progress in drafting a new constitution, he called for the Turkish people to vote in a referendum to strengthen his power in a presidential system.
“The nation is ready, but the politicians who are passing themselves off as elites are not ready; this is the trouble,” Erdoğan said.
“Turkey is able to discuss its new constitution as its own preference and demand a presidential system as its administration form. This is an achievement in itself. We must further inform our people about the new constitution and the presidential system. Its narration on televisions and in newspapers and providing information to our nation as soon as possible is our duty. Here, NGOs have taken this step now. In our universities, in the law, international relations and economics faculties, these are being discussed. Panels and symposiums have started and will start there,” he said. “This business is up and running.”
In the Nov. 1, 2015, election the AKP secured 317 seats in the 550-member parliament. For a constitutional change in parliament, the AKP needed to win 367 seats, though 330 seats would be enough to take the issue to a referendum.
According to a scenario in some media reports, in the event that opposition parties do not support a constitutional change, an early election could be held in which the AKP would aim to win 330 seats, paving the way for a referendum on a presidential system in line with Erdoğan’s desires.