Presidential system for New Turkey - İBRAHIM KARAGÜL

Presidential system for New Turkey

Yesterday’s meeting of cabinet ministers held at the presidential palace in Beştepe is not the same thing as a president chairing a meeting of cabinet ministers during times of emergency. The chairing of the cabinet meeting by the president, who for the first time in the history of the Republic was elected by direct vote, was actually also one of the first steps toward a presidential system.

It is essential to understand the difference between the current situation and previous instances of presidents chairing cabinet meetings, and related debates on a presidential system. Tayyip Erdoğan’s election via direct vote and the comprehensive structural changes made over the years toward a presidential system in Turkey represents a new situation.

Previous presidents were not elected directly and lacked power. Even if they launched the debate on a presidential system, the system’s structure wouldn’t permit it. They did not possess the strength and will to carry out the necessary structural changes and transformations. Therefore they were idle discussions, and could even be considered a luxury given the realities in Turkey.


This time, however, we are faced with one reality. Tangible implementations and changes made have left Turkey facing just one choice. It seems that the transformation of the system, which has been implemented by Erdoğan for a long time now, has largely cleared that path. Hence, for the first time the term presidential system carries real meaning and it looks like there is a strong possibility that the aim will be achieved.

The debate will be placed on a more rational footing and we will see that the current climate represents a first, if the debate is conducted on the basis of whether Turkish society is ready for it and whether the system is useful, instead of whether it strengthens or weakens democracy. Even if looked at from the angle of advanced democracy, it can be seen that many countries, which are considered as examples, are run on the basis of such a system.

If the Turkish public has directly elected Erdoğan as president, then it must also be accepted that this choice represents a positive view on the status of “president.” It seems likely that this debate will be top of the agenda during the upcoming period. The public will be prepared for this system via certain implementations, such as yesterday’s meeting, and will in all probability be favorable toward such a shift.


An unprecedented amount of resistance will also arise. Isn’t it this resistance anyway that has been dragging Turkey from one crisis to the next during the past two years? What we see as a power struggle inside Turkey is actually all about this.

The Gezi revolt, inciting Alevis to rebel, and the active participation of “friendly” Western intelligence agencies in this action were acts of intervention to stop Turkey’s transformation and march to the future. Erdoğan’s reputation was targeted while doing this by resorting to urban terrorism to provoke the masses and generate immense rage against him.

Turkish society would no longer revere him, the pioneers who embarked on this great march with Erdoğan would be purged, the country would be confined within the borders of Anatolia, and Turkey would be confined to the template of a nation state, which is a 20th century construct.

In order for it not to attempt such things anymore, all the diversity that exists domestically would be converted to areas of conflict, the country would be forced to expend all its energy on domestic issues, this country wouldn’t be able to recover, a new actor would have been prevented from taking the international stage, and the impact of countries within Turkey’s sphere of influence would also be rendered ineffective.

In other words, both Turkey and the region would be deprived of this new political awakening and joining of forces; and tutelage and hegemony would continue to prevail.

Turkey was playing a very dangerous game! For the first time since the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, it was issuing the greatest challenge, asking the region to join it in this challenge, was strongly protesting the global balance of power, and preparing society for a great struggle and transformation.

They failed. The prudence of the Turkish public ensured the failure of this international conspiracy, this scenario that was similar to the one being seen in Ukraine.


The Dec. 17, 2013 event was immediately brought into play. Those who brought the secular opposition from Gezi under a single roof but still failed discovered a conservative structure. They spurred a structure, which had penetrated every single part of the system, into action.

The leadership cadre, which enjoyed the support of the majority of the conservative segment, would be purged by resorting to a community. Furthermore, Turkish society would find nothing odd about this structure. (Community is a term used to refer to the Fethullah Gülen-led movement.)

In this regard the Dec. 17 intervention was far more dangerous than the Gezi revolt. A Turkey-related scenario would be implemented by exploiting segments -- which have a conservative character and are strong supporters of the AK Parti (Justice and Development Party) -- by confusing them and camouflaging this attempt as a fight against “corruption,” with the awareness that it would be a sensitive issue for those segments as well.

This scenario came to nothing when Erdoğan and a small circle close to him became aware of this ploy and strongly resisted it. It came to nothing when the public backed this resistance, and a section of the media, which also became aware of the ploy, sprung into action. This scenario which was similar to the one seen in Egypt also ended in failure.


Elections are approaching. There are concerns that a third attempt will be made. We don’t know what awaits but it looks like we need to be on the highest alert with regard to our sensitivities toward terrorism and the reconciliation process. If they don’t succeed prior to the 2015 elections, then, for the most part, areas where they could interfere in Turkey will be closed off to them. They are well aware of this and are facing severe time restraints.

Everything becomes clear when one seeks an answer to the question of “why do they occupy themselves so much with Turkey.” The will to head toward a presidential system, on its own, represents an excuse for intervention. It is a reason to purge Erdoğan and his team.

Turkey is preparing for the future with all these changes. If those behind the display of will to build a New Turkey are not neutralized, then a center of political power will be created in our region and the calculations made regarding Turkey and the region for the 21st century will have to be changed to a large degree. This would result in the narrowing of the operational spheres of many actors.

In a period where such volatility and unsteadiness exists in the region and where everything is considered to be dependent on fate, Turkey will need to be very dynamic and active to show that it is not fate.

Turkey won’t be able to overcome this turbulent period with cumbersome decision-making mechanisms. Rather than just seeing off this turbulent period, Turkey wants to implement a historical transition period at a head-spinning pace. If the 20th century was a chapter for us and we want to shut that chapter, the transformation of the system has to continue unabated, and a state decision-making body and mechanism built that can act rapidly and flexibly.


While stressing that a presidential system represents the most advanced stage of this transformation, it should also be noted that a country capable of acting swiftly is required during this turbulent period of history.

Those who even make the presidential palace a topic of debate and oppose the presidential system citing advanced democracies as examples could, at the very least, turn the monarchist structures existing in those advanced democracies into a topic of debate. It would be a step to conceal their hypocrisy if nothing else.

A lot has changed in Turkey. A lot more things will change. The issue is not just governing the country and managing what we possess. We might be in a situation where as a country we will be required to make very difficult decisions in the coming years.

If we are to become a Turkey that is not just an Anatolian state but has close ties with all countries in the remotest parts of Asia and Africa based on our political traditions and common history, and a Turkey that can individually address their issues, we need to break with routine and change our language and point of view.


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