Turkey’s new semi-presidential politics

By JD Mussel

At Al-Monitor, Cengiz Candar offers an insightful perspective on politics under Turkey’s now semi-presidential constitution.

Turkey’s Constitution was amended in 2007 to make the president directly elected, changing the executive format from parliamentary to premier-presidential. Accordingly, the first presidential elections were held on August 10th, which were won by majority in the first round by Tayyip Erdoğan, who has been prime minister since 2003.

Outgoing (indirectly-elected) president Abdullah Gul (who, along with Erdogan, was one of the AK party’s founders), had been considered the strongest contender for the party chairmanship and premiership* now vacated by Erdogan. However, Erdogan appears to have viewed this prospect as a threat, and has instead designated Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu as prime minister, to be confirmed by a special party congress on the 27th, the day before Erdogan’s swearing-in.

As Candar puts it:

Erdogan does not want Gul at the head of the AKP, and he does not want him as the next prime minister of Turkey.

The reason is transparent: Gul cannot and will not be a puppet prime minister for Erdogan, who wants a more or less South American-style presidency for the next five years, if not 10.

To be more constitutionally exact, it will resemble a French-style (non-cohabitation) presidency, considering its premier-presidentialism framework as well as the AKP’s clear majority in the Grand National Assembly, which it partly owes to the country’s majoritarian 10%-threshold electoral system. This combination of institutions should work to strongly presidentialize parties, and invest the president with the effective power to choose and fire his own prime minister, as is the case in France.

However, it would seem that the situation might develop differently if Gul does manage to become party chairman after all. It certainly doesn’t seem likely to happen, but it would certainly be interesting if it did. Are there precedents of such a thing happening? Has a majority party in a premier-presidential system ever successfully picked its own agent as prime minister against the wishes of a president of the same party**? Has it even been tried?

 


* The article above mentions a constitutional provision obliging the president to appoint the head of the ‘victorious’ party as PM, but I failed to find such a provision in the constitution, which simply states that the President appoints the PM.

** That is, a non-cohabitation situation.

One thought on “Turkey’s new semi-presidential politics

  1. Even in straight parliamentary systems, I don’t think constitutional practice has evolved to take into account situations where the majority party is divided into factions, there is evidence that the rank and file prefer someone else as the party leader other than the nominal leader, but the party rules don’t allow the nominal leader to be replaced, and instances where there is a vacancy in the party leadership but the method for picking a new party leader takes a really long time.

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