By Dr. Demir Murat Seyrek, senior policy advisor at the European Foundation for Democracy
The political system governing Turkey is on the verge of a profound change. In the case of a “yes” vote on 16 April, Turkey will be transformed from a parliamentary system to an executive presidency, in which the President will have an unprecedented role. Even Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founding father of the Republic, did not have such power.
A presidential system is not a bad thing per se; there are certainly good examples. Moreover, the presidential system discussion is not new in Turkish political history either. The issue was previously raised by the late President Turgut Özal, a key political figure in the transition of Turkey to a western-style liberal economy in the 1980s. However, the focus of these past discussions has always been the American system with a strong emphasis on the separation of power. The newly proposed system, literally described as “a la Turca” presidency by the Turkish government, has little in common with presidential systems in the Western world. Many elements in the constitutional package increase concerns regarding democracy, separation of powers and checks and balances.
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