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Ambiguous outlook in election procedures…

1 Ağustos 2014 , Cuma 08:58
Ambiguous outlook in election procedures…
melis.sunay@halklailiskiler.com

Turkey’s system of government has been somewhat difficult to grasp over the years, having been influenced directly by a system recognizedasone of the most egalitarianduring my formative years. The upcoming presidential elections by direct popular vote, the first in Turkish history, to take place on August 10 (the first round) and August 24 (the second round, allowing 2 candidates receiving the most votes a chance to compete in case no candidate wins majority in the first) will offer a stage for the ongoing struggle among the ruling conservative AKP (the Justice and Development Party) and the opposition front.
 
The system of government changing from a parliamentary democracy to a presidential one through a constitutional amendment in 2007 has presented Turkish citizens from all walks of lifeacrucial decision-making challenge.  
 
Officially a secular state, Turkey’s founder Atatürk viewed religion as an impediment to modernization and development, enforcing separation of religion and state in setting up the government.  This, however, did not diminish religious influence on the majority of the population, especially in rural areas and lower-class urban neighborhoods. The unfortunate lack of city-planning which allowed mass migrations from villages and rural areas to major cities throughout the years, enhanced political consciousness of the people, enabling religion to reacquire a respected public status.  Political parties in their stride to capture votes had to appeal to religious sentiments of the masses, securing religion a wide-ranging safeguard since more and more parties sprung up in the country over the years. Justice and Development Party (AKP) is one of these parties that capturedthese votes and remained in power due to economic growth recorded until recent years. 
 
Turkey, a multi-cultural society where no single religion should dictate state policies, is gradually giving into Islam, dismissing the ‘religious freedom’ principle in democracies. Unfortunately, this tool of sentiment in the past has now become a tool to enforce wishes influenced by religion of current leaders.
 
Candidates have entered the arena for the upcoming elections with an unexpected appointment of a joint candidate of the Republican People’s (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Parties’ (MHP), Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, a former Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC).  While he appears to be the best opponentagainst the ruling AKP, he is neither a threat for secularists nor a source of intimidation for conservative voters.
 
In accordance with the current Turkish constitution, President Abdullah Gul had to officially resign from his post inAKP in 2007 following the amendment to Article 101, preventing the country’s president from having any political affiliations. He was selected by parliament and his role is simply that of an arbitrator, while the PM administers the executive.  Yet since the current president and the PM are members of the same party, there has been little need for him to act as a mediator in any decision-making process.
 
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s announcement of his candidacy for president, meanwhile,has placed him on thin ice in my opinion, yet measures afforded inadequateunder democratic systems, could very easily be altered under the present government. The PM claims that he is not required to resign from his present posts serving as the head of AKP and as the country’s PM to run for the presidency, maintaining that there no articles in the constitution calling for him to do so.  Yet asthe PM and member of parliament, he maintains political immunity and is allowed to dip into state and AKP coffers as well as use state forces on his campaign trail.  There is quite a bit of opposition to this as other candidates are not afforded such comfort.
 
Ifhe wins he will definitely have to step down as the leader of AKP and as PM, thus losing his executive powers.  It would take time to amend the constitution to assign executive control to the president, which by the way, would rest on his dwindling parliamentary followers according to various sources.  Additionally, would other AKP members maintaining parliamentary majority readily accept the role as the new PM vacated by Erdogan to simply follow his orders under a presidential system as it is currently conceived?
 
And finally, if he loses, he would like to continue serving as the PM for he was never required to resign, thus still maintaining full executive powers. This would mean that the ‘direct popular vote’ method afforded Turkish citizens would have simply been a political ploy for the amusement of the current leaders.
 

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