When the Reconciliation Commission in Parliament ended, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) accelerated its constitution work. We were in Jordan with Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu over the weekend.
Before going to Jordan, the prime minister convened with AK Party members working on the new constitution. Davutoğlu announced that the new constitution would soon be written. “We are planning to present the new constitution to the Parliament by the end of April,” he said.
In the meeting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had with the AK Party Constitution, Foreign Affairs and EU Accession Commission members on Thursday morning over breakfast, two of the topics discussed were the new constitution and the presidential system.
I had a look at the backstage of the meeting. To tell the truth, there was nothing different from the president's public speeches. For example, he states that he approves of Davutoğlu's suggestion on lifting parliamentary immunity. “The Parliament should not act as a barrier between the jurisdiction and immunity,” says Erdoğan. You might then say, “Why are you writing, then?” We have had the chance to have a look at the backstage of things. In the news on the president's meeting with the commission members, it was said that there was the impression that the parliamentarians would revise AK Party's proposal on the presidential system, and that a two-bodied system like that in the US would be established. I researched on this impression and gained different impressions.
The president gave all commission members the chance to speak at the breakfast meeting. He took their opinions and then made a comprehensive evaluation. He gave important explanations on topics from the battle against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), to Daesh's acts, to lifting parliamentary immunity, to fighting the parallel structure. He drew a road map for the new constitution and the presidential system.
He asked that the new constitution not be rushed: “This isn't a topic that can be finalized in a month or two. It needs to develop and mature properly.” This is an important point. How the new constitution will be done is just as important as drafting a new constitution. The AK Party aims to go through this period with the people. In this way it plans to follow a strategy that will increase public support. The president pays attention to the people being persuaded, thus adopting this new constitution. He warns the Parliament that they should work faster as he says, “Whatever the system is, you won't be effective with these internal regulations. You will not be able to make the Parliament work. This should be your priority.” The president did not go into the content of the presidential system. “The people want us to work on the new constitution. This period should be transparent so the people can easily see what is happening. Our people should see who is working for the new constitution. The party in government needs to prepare a proposal and present it to Parliament. Therefore it can be in a position to say, 'We did all we could.' This is what is needed for the presidential system.”
Now let's talk about the US style presidential system.
The AK Party will base its presidential system on the US-style presidential system. Thus in this way a debate on a Turkish-style presidential system will not occur. However, there will be differences. A congress and senate system will not be used. It will be based on a single parliament and unitary system.
The system will be one that has the ability to overcome crises caused between the legislative and executive systems.
A powerful legislative and powerful executive system is need for the system to work fast and effectively.
They are careful with the language used on the presidential system. They say, “The presidential system is not essential for a new constitution, the most essential thing is the new constitution. We are not making a new constitution for the presidential system.”
The starting point for the presidential system is “the current system is unsustainable.”
Professor Mustafa Şentop, the director of the Constitution Commission, makes an important evaluation. Şentop says, “The current system isn't a parliamentary system. It is a hybrid system.”
And he continues:
“ 1- The president is elected directly by the people.
2- The president has many authorities. There is a consensus among parties to change this system. However, there is dispute on what should be added to the system. The Republican People's Party (CHP) wants to go back to the 1961 Constitution, in which the president's authorities were limited. However with the 1982 Constitution a powerful president approach was adopted. With the 2007 constitution change, the people were given the right to elect their president. This process projects moving onto a semi-presidential and presidential system, not going back to the 1961 Constitution, because you cannot take the right to elect their own president from the people.”
The “family tree” in the presidential system is one of the interesting points in Şentop's evaluation. Explaining that the presidential system was discussed since 1969, Şentop says there are two courses: a political course and an intellectual course.
The National Vision Movement (MGT), a movement the president comes from, first founded the National Order Party (MNP). Şentop explains that this party had the presidential system on their program. It then continues with the Welfare Party (RP).
This was the political course. And there is an intellectual course. Mustafa Şentop says that there are two names that shape President Erdoğan's intellectual world. One is Necip Fazıl Kısakürek, the master, and the other is Sezai Karakoç, the poet.
Necip Fazıl had written article 16 of the presidential system which was a part of the MNP's program. Article 24 of Sezai Karakoç's Supreme Revival Party (YDP) says, “The right of the people electing their president and going toward a presidential system is essential.”
These were the topics discussed at the president's breakfast table.
The framework of the new constitution the AK Party is working on is coming along. The AK Party plans to prepare a short and plain constitution, composed of 50 to 60 points.
1- The basic principles that regulate the shape of the state.
2- Fundamental rights
3- A legislative system based on a single parliament
4- An executive system based on a presidential system
Topics such as encouraging a cooperative system and regulating foreign trade will not be included in the new constitution.