Party-member president - AYDIN ÜNAL

Party-member president

Presidents used to be party members in Turkey until the May 27, 1960 coup. It was with the 1961 constitution that the provision stipulating presidents sever their relations with their parties was introduced. The 1982 Constitution maintained this provision.

The new constitutional amendments to be put to referendum in April of this year will to put an end to the deception of a "partyless and unbiased presidency". Another trace of the 1960 and 1980 coups will be wiped out.

Immediately after the April referendum, if he wishes, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan can rejoin the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) as a member and be elected AK Party chairman again.

The opposition is defending the "partyless presidency," which is a product of the coup. It claims that a partyless president will be "unbiased".

Let's look at the practical side of the matter and quickly ask if there has ever been an unbiased president in Turkey.

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was the founder of the current main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and, until he died, he was both president and CHP chairman. He had said, "I am not without a side. I am a side. My faction is the Republican People's Faction."

İsmet İnönü was both president and CHP chairman between 1938 and 1950.

Celal Bayar was elected president when the Democrat Party came to power. He stepped down from his position as party chairman but continued to remain a member of the party.

Cemal Gürsel was first brought to lead the 1960 coup, then he was elected president. Ali Fuat Başgil, who was brought from abroad to run as a candidate against Gürsel, was deterred from candidacy with death threats. Gürsel was a “coup plotter” president, not a “party-member” one. There is no need to mention that he saw eye-to-eye with the CHP in every matter.

Cevdet Sunay was one of the supporters of the 1960 coup. He had a military background and was the candidate the CHP supported.

Fahri Korutürk was also a soldier. He was elected with Süleyman Demirel and Bülent Ecevit's alliance over him.

Kenan Evren, the seventh president, was also a coup plotter president. His ideas and actions would match that of the CHP. He was the president who bred Fetullah Gülen and encouraged him to infiltrate state institutes, primarily the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF).

Turgut Özal was elected president while he was the chairman of the Motherland Party (ANAP). He wanted to continue his relations with ANAP, but Mesut Yılmaz would not allow it. His ties with politics continued until he died.

Demirel became president while he was chairman of the True Path Party (DYP) and he sided with the state as soon as he became president. He continued in politics after his presidency as well and openly supported the CHP against the AK Party.

Ahmet Necdet Sezer was a president much loved by the CHP and especially the neo-nationalists. He was so “unbiased” that he never hid his sympathy for the CHP and enmity for the AK Party.

Abdullah Gül, a founding member of the AK Party, was elected president while he was an AK Party-member prime minister, deputy prime minister and member of Parliament. His tolerant, embracing attitude that preferred dialog and efforts to appear “unbiased” are praiseworthy.

None of the previous 11 presidents were unbiased. What is more is that while presidents' ties to their parties were severed with the 1961 constitution, presidents were made to align with the state, taking position against the nation. In the time between 1961 and 2014, presidents, other than Özal, did what was expected of them and they appeared to be unbiased and became pro-state.

Yet, the 12th president, Erdoğan, declared right at the beginning that he would be different, he would not be unbiased and that he would side with the nation as a president directly elected by the people.

With the new constitutional amendments, not only will a strangeness that is the work of a coup be eliminated, but a strangeness that is hidden under the guise of “being unbiased” that also pushes presidents to be two-faced, will also be eliminated. It will create a constitutional ground for the situation that saves presidents from their partiality toward the state, making them side with the people, which Erdoğan currently and actively implements.

The prime ministers who came into office with 40 percent, 30 percent and sometimes even 20 percent of the vote and served the entire country were never faced with arguments about which party they belonged to. Presidents elected with more than 50 percent of the vote and who will serve a population of 80 million will also have no problem such as belonging to a party or not.

No matter or subject in Turkey is outside politics, and expecting or hoping that presidents stay outside of politics, claiming that it is so, is beyond the truth. It will never coincided with practice and never will.

Let us remember that in many developed countries, primarily the U.S., the president is a party member.

Also, let us clarify that the AK Party is showing Atatürk and İnönü as examples of party-member presidents. Yes, Atatürk and İnönü were party-member presidents. But back in their time, elections were neither free nor transparent and presidential terms were unlimited.

Turkey is currently one of the rare countries in the world that is able to hold free, transparent and sound elections with the highest participation rates and reflect the people's will at the ballot box at a maximum rate.

While we have such a responsible and conscious nation regarding elections, and with presidents limited to two terms, if placing labels such as “national chief”, “eternal chief”, “one-man ruler” or “dictator” to the president is not out of ignorance, then it is out of arrogance.


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