Turkey a dictatorship with a presidential system?

This week the Turkish parliament is debating a constitutional amendment that would establish a presidential system in the country. Under the amended constitution the president would be head of government as well as head of state and the office of Prime Minister would be abolished. Commentators take different views of the ruling AKP's plans.

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Hürriyet Daily News (TR) /

Even the vote is undemocratic

Turkey lacks the right environment for a democratic vote on the constitutional reform, Hürriyet Daily News complains:

“On Jan. 9, around 50 civil society organizations, including Turkey’s Bar Association, were denied the right to protest charter talks at parliament by the use of police force. It is highly likely that the government will not allow protest attempts in the coming days as well, as parliament continues to debate and vote on each article until late January. This picture tells us that Turkey’s most important constitutional change is not being discussed in a free environment. Worse, the ongoing state of emergency will continue to not allow a free and equal environment for opposition groups that want to campaign against the move. The fact that continued deadly terror attacks spread nation-wide fear and concern is yet another discouraging factor for a healthy social and political environment ahead of these key votes.”

Hürriyet (TR) /

Separation of powers would be abolished

The consequences of a constitutional amendment send shivers down Hürriyet's back:

“If this change is ratified by parliament and in a referendum, the Turkish Republic would become a one-party state. We would enter a period in which the separation of powers comes to an end and the legislature, executive and judiciary would be in the hands of a single person: the president. Parliament would completely relinquish its capacity to control the executive and hold it to account. The country would be governed by presidential decrees. Many members of the Constitutional Court, the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors and the highest courts would be named by a single person. During periods in which the president proclaims a state of emergency he would also be able to issue legally binding decrees and control the country without the parliament having any say whatsoever.”

Deutschlandfunk (DE) /

Erdoğan would have to answer for his mistakes

The presidential system would not just bring Erdoğan advantages, Deutschlandfunk points out:

“At least at first glance, the only positive aspect about the concentration of power is that Erdoğan will no longer be able to hold his prime ministers responsible for political aberrations and then replace them in case of doubt. He alone will bear responsibility - at least formally. Nevertheless there is cause to fear that he will deal with responsibility as he has done in the past. He takes all the credit for positive developments such as new Bosporus bridges or tunnels. ... But he is quick to blame others - above all the so-called West - for negative developments such as the attempted coup, the flagging economy, the drop in value of the Turkish lira or conflicts with neighbouring countries. Why should that change with the constitutional reform?”

Berliner Zeitung (DE) /

Authoritarianism instead of Kemalism

If the Turkish parliament votes for the introduction of a presidential system it will put Turkey definitively on the path to authoritarianism, writes the Berliner Zeitung:

“The multi-day debate on switching to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's 'Turkish-style' executive presidential system is significant for the West, because if this happens Turkey will move away from Europe and a step closer to Central Asia, Russia and Vladimir Putin. It would be the first time since the establishment of the Turkish Republic in 1923 that the country abandoned the path of founder of the Republic Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who led Turkey towards the West, into the modern age and into Nato. … The state of emergency that was imposed after the attempted coup last July provides a foretaste of this system. Erdoğan is ruling through special decrees pushed through by his party with its parliamentary majority. The legislature has been reduced to the status of a voting machine, the judiciary to a recipient of orders and the intelligence services to lackeys.”

Star (TR) /

The popular will takes precedent

The largest opposition party CHP's allegations that Turkey would become a dictatorship under the presidential system are as weak as they are disrespectful, Star maintains:

“What is being planned? The powers of the prime minister will be transferred to a president who is directly elected by the people. By getting rid of the office of prime minister the executive will become a workable organ. It leaves a bitter aftertaste to describe as a dictatorship a system that aims to overcome the crises brought about by a dual executive and that is led by a directly elected president. And saying that parliament would be excluded from the decision-making process is a gross distortion of the facts.”