Presidential System in Turkey

What are the distinctive features of the Turkish presidential system?

The 2017 referendum to amend the constitution by a majority vote yes in Turkey began the transition to leaving the result in the presidential system. The presidential system is a system that has been implemented in different countries of the world, especially the USA, for many years. However, since every country has political, economic, and social differences, this system may vary according to the country. Before explaining how to implement the presidential system of our country, I want to explain this system's features and the formerly used parliamentary system in Turkey. The presidential system is a system based on hard forces separation. The presidential system has its own determinant features. The first is that the president is directly elected by the people. The president is elected for a certain period of time and is in charge of his post, except in extraordinary situations such as charges. The elected president is the head of the executive. The President is not responsible to the legislature. They have responsibilities only to the people who choose them. However, the legislature cannot dissolve the president, nor can the president abolish the legislature. The same person cannot play a role in both legislation and executive. Based on these key features, the USA is an example of a typical presidential system. In contrast, the parliamentary system we used adopted a softer separation of powers. In the parliamentary system, the executive body is divided between the president and the cabinet. Both the executive and the legislature can dissolve each other. Only the manager calls for an election. The cabinet is also responsible for the assembly. These features basically distinguish two systems.

The transition to a presidential system in Turkey is the product of a particular time and changes in the constitution. In this transition period, we encounter three important dates 21 October 2007, 28 August 2014, and 9 July 2018. Turkey's system of government has changed along with these dates. Now I will talk about these dates and the different government systems used. August 28, 2014, before Turkey was using a pure parliamentary system.  The changes in the constitution were first approved by the referendum in 2007. Let's look at what items this change covers. Articles 77, 79, 96, 101, and 102 of the Constitution were amended by the Law on Constitutional Amendment adopted as a result of the public vote. The most important part of this change was in Articles 101 and 102. According to the new arrangement, it is regulated that the president will be elected by the public, his term of office is 5 years, and that no one can be elected as a president at most twice.

As a result of these arrangements, the new president took office on 28 August 2014 with a referendum. From this date, we can say that a pure parliamentary system for Turkey's system of government. Then, in the 2017 referendum, the new constitution and government system change was approved. These changes came into force on 9 July 2018. In the intervening period between 2014-2018 Turkey has implemented a unique system. Although many features of the parliamentary system are used, there is a huge difference. The election procedure of the President had changed and started to be elected by the people. This election procedure belongs to the presidential system. When we look at them the period 2014-2018 remained between Turkey's government system may also be called a semi-presidential system. However, it was not drawn with strict limits.

There are many constitutional amendments adopted as a result of the referendum held in 2017. I will give examples of those related to the change in the government system. Articles 77., 101., 104. 8., 105., 106., 107., 15., 116. of the Constitution include new amendments that particularly affect the government system. According to these changes, it was decided to hold the parliamentary elections and the presidential elections on the same day. The election period was increased to 5 years again. Significant changes have been made to the executive body. The prime minister and the council of ministers were abolished and all their powers were transferred to the president. For the Presidential decree, the law of authority was not required to be enacted by the parliament. It became possible to issue a presidential decree in all areas concerning the executive. The president was empowered to appoint his deputies and ministers without any control. The president also had the authority to appoint senior public administrators and terminate their duties. The President has become able to declare OHAL and issue decrees on all matters concerning OHAL. Although the term of office of the President is limited to two terms, if the parliament decides to renew the elections in the second term, the president will be a candidate for the third time.

With these changes, the Turkish government system has almost become a presidential system. I almost say this because this system has some unique differences. If we evaluate this type of Turkish system one by one according to the essential features of the presidential system, we can see this difference. Firstly, in this new system, only the president is in charge of execution. This is a single-headed presidential feature. The president is directly elected by the people. This feature fits the presidential system exactly. Since the parliamentary and presidential elections are held at the same time, the parliament can renew the presidential elections by taking the renewal of its own elections. That is, he can end the task of the current president. Likewise, the president may renew the parliamentary elections, provided that his elections are repeated. These features violate the presidential system. Because the president cannot stop the legislative system in the presidential system. Likewise, the legislatures cannot dismiss the executive branch. In the new system, the same person cannot take part in both the legislative and the executive. In other words, a sharp separation of powers is applied and this fits the characteristics of the presidential system. At the same time, the executive body cannot participate in activities that belong to the legislative body, such as drafting a bill. This is an indication of the separation of powers and therefore compliance with the presidential system.

Finally, I talked about the changes in 2017 and the transition to the presidential system. So, what advantages and disadvantages did this change create in Turkey? I can say the advantages of the system first, the principle of separation of powers. This principle guarantees individual rights and freedoms if it can be applied as required. At the same time, voters see the possible government options and vote, and the ability to ask for accounts later is high. The president gives confidence to this voter only because he is responsible to the people who choose him. Also, if we speak for our country, this system prevents the repetition of coalition governments. This coalition of governments in Turkey has been particularly political in the 1990s and in many periods of political instability, has experienced economic difficulties. In theory, although the presidential system has such advantages, it has many more disadvantages in practice, and its implementation has not been established in our country. First, I want to talk about changes in the executive branch. I think giving all the powers of the prime minister and the council of ministers to the president created a single-man regime. The fact that almost all authority is gathered in one person will always create question marks for the public. At the same time, it is not democratic that the presidential decrees are issued in almost all areas of the executive, and these decrees are not subject to a check. As a matter of fact, we have seen many people and professions that these decrees negatively affect during the 2-year period in which this system was applied. The president also had the authority to appoint senior management. They emphasized that a strong president will provide stability while campaigning for this system. This may be true considering the presidential system, but it is not exactly right for our country. I do not find it right to block many democratic rights just for stability. This system is quite a rigid system even in its simplest form. This rigidity can often lead to regime crises and even bumps. The presidential system is a system where the winner gains everything and the loser loses everything. This situation may lead to political polarization. Especially in our country, there are growing polarizations without the presidential system. While these different poles and differences of thought have not been solved for a long time, it has become almost impossible to solve with the new system. When we look at all this, it is not correct for the presidential system to be put into practice before the political infrastructure is completed in our country. The successful implementation of this system in the USA or other countries does not show that it will be successful in our country as well. We do not currently use the system that is fully implemented in the USA, but even if the systems are exactly the same, political realities are very different. The historical process and economic, social, and cultural differences affect systems.