With coup de­feated, Er­do­gan eyes vote on re­vamped pow­ers

Kuwait Times - - ANALYSIS -

Just three months af­ter see­ing off a failed coup, Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan has put right back at the top of the agenda a plan to in­crease his pow­ers through con­sti­tu­tional change. The plan to cre­ate a pres­i­den­tial sys­tem means Turkey is likely to be head­ing to a ref­er­en­dum in the first half of next year, an­a­lysts say. This may cre­ate more in­sta­bil­ity for Turkey’s frag­ile econ­omy and ex­ac­er­bate al­ready sim­mer­ing ten­sions in so­ci­ety, af­ter Er­do­gan de­feated the big­gest chal­lenge to his 13-year rule.

But it will also al­low the leader to set­tle for once and for all the ques­tion of his pow­ers. Only a month af­ter be­com­ing prime min­is­ter in March 2003 Er­do­gan told an in­ter­viewer that his “de­sire” was for a pres­i­den­tial sys­tem in Turkey, sim­i­lar to the one in the United States. Af­ter be­ing elected pres­i­dent in Au­gust 2014 and de­feat­ing the coup bid in July, Er­do­gan is more de­ter­mined than ever to ful­fill his de­sire and push for­ward with his plans.

Govern­ment of­fi­cials ar­gue a fully pres­i­den­tial sys­tem is needed to le­gal­ize what has be­come a de-facto sit­u­a­tion, with Er­do­gan Turkey’s undis­puted num­ber one af­ter trans­form­ing the of­fice of head of state. To change the con­sti­tu­tion the rul­ing Jus­tice and De­vel­op­ment Party (AKP) co-founded by Er­do­gan needs a su­per-ma­jor­ity of 367 votes. The AKP only has 316 seats (ex­clud­ing the speaker Is­mail Kahra­man) in the 550-seat na­tional as­sem­bly.

But to put for­ward the changes to the pub­lic in a ref­er­en­dum, the party needs only 330 votes, which could hap­pen if the 40-seat Na­tion­al­ist Move­ment Party (MHP) of Devlet Bahceli gives its sup­port. The two other op­po­si­tion par­ties are likely to be against. Bahceli has not in­di­cated whether his party’s MPs will give the govern­ment their sup­port but on Tues­day gave his firmest in­di­ca­tion yet it could be pre­pared to al­low the ref­er­en­dum to go ahead.

‘In­crease Po­lar­iza­tion’

Fadi Hakura, Turkey ex­pert at Chatham House think tank in Lon­don, said that so far the Bahceli’s state­ments in­di­cate “will­ing­ness to col­lab­o­rate” with the AKP to bring about a ref­er­en­dum. He added there was a “real pos­si­bil­ity” the sys­tem would be ap­proved in a ref­er­en­dum but warned that the cur­rent po­lar­iza­tion in Turkey would worsen. “The pres­i­den­tial sys­tem will fur­ther in­ten­sify the ide­o­log­i­cal po­lar­iza­tion and en­trenched con­ser­vatism. “(It) will fur­ther in­ten­sify the ex­ist­ing po­lit­i­cal, ide­o­log­i­cal and sec­tar­ian di­vi­sions be­dev­illing Turk­ish pol­i­tics and so­ci­ety,” he said.

The un­cer­tainty since the is­sue rose back to the top of the agenda has also hurt the Turk­ish lira, which has lost over four per­cent in value against the US dol­lar over the last month. Some ex­perts sug­gest the pres­i­dent could even be tempted to call early leg­isla­tive elec­tions in 2017 al­though the govern­ment has de­nied hav­ing any such idea.

Michael Har­ris, global head of re­search at in­vest­ment bank Re­nais­sance Cap­i­tal, warned in a note that the Turk­ish econ­omy was “on hold” un­til Er­do­gan achieved his ob­jec­tives. Ac­cord­ing to Har­ris, if Er­do­gan tries to win a su­per-ma­jor­ity through an early elec­tion, it would be the “crux of why we con­tinue to rec­om­mend in­vestors take money out of the coun­try”. But if Er­do­gan is able to achieve the ex­ec­u­tive pres­i­dency in an ac­cel­er­ated and smoother process, Turkey could find “po­lit­i­cal equilib­rium in 2017”, he said.

‘Peo­ple Sup­port Er­do­gan’

Prime Min­is­ter Bi­nali Yildirim on Tues­day said it would be brought to par­lia­ment “very soon” be­cause the changes were needed to “elim­i­nate con­fu­sion from the sys­tem”. Jus­tice Min­is­ter Bekir Bozdag sug­gested last week a ref­er­en­dum on a pres­i­den­tial sys­tem could come as early as spring 2017. The au­thor­i­ties are con­fi­dent of win­ning a sym­bolic and con­vinc­ing vic­tory, which would be Turkey’s fourth ma­jor na­tional poll in as many years.

Polls af­ter the coup showed that its de­feat had sub­stan­tially bol­stered Er­do­gan’s rat­ings while a poll pub­lished on Tues­day in the pro-govern­ment Daily Sabah news­pa­per said 63 per­cent sup­ported the pres­i­den­tial sys­tem. “In Turkey peo­ple see a close re­la­tion­ship be­tween Er­do­gan and the pres­i­den­tial sys­tem,” said Mehmet Ali Ku­lat, the head of the MAK re­search com­pany which con­ducted face-to-face in­ter­views with 5,400 peo­ple be­tween Oct 10 and 15. “What they sup­port more is Er­do­gan rather than a pres­i­den­tial sys­tem,” he said. — AFP

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