Column: What will the presidential system bring?

Yasin AktayBy: Yasin Aktay*

At times, the current constitutional change process leads to harsh arguments. We should not be too hung up on the harshness of these arguments that sometimes go as far as physical clashes in the Turkish Parliament. These are not images that should be considered odd in terms of a culture that has accepted a democracy based on political disputes.

After all, there will be a change in Turkey’s administrative system. The issue is, of course, the change of the administrative system, but it is not hard to understand why the Republican People’s Party (CHP) is trying to agitate the issue as if it were a “regime change.” By using agitation as a tool of political performance, they are trying to affect not only the mind but also the emotions of the target audience without using an argument. The issue, of course, should not be underestimated. If the CHP spends some time thinking over the issue, it too will realize that this change will bring a more effective and rational kind of administration for Turkey.

They tenaciously argue that this change is made in the interest of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan alone. We can clearly say that if the issue was merely about President Erdoğan, they would have realized that presently, he actually has more opportunities and greater authority. Erdoğan already has all the authority he needs today, provided to him by the current system and his actual and natural influence within the Justice and Development Party (AK Party).

Everyone including the CHP actually are aware of this reality and they ask about the point they are unable comprehend: “But why? What else does he want?” Let us repeat one more time: The issue does not concern Erdoğan’s person, it is solely about Turkey. Yes, it is true that since 2002, Turkey has already enjoyed all the advantages the presidential system has to offer. “Then why is there a need to go beyond the parliamentarian system?” is the question asked. Because, all these advantages were experienced only due to Erdoğan’s exceptional leadership.

Thus, the system has to prepare Turkey for the post-Erdoğan period for a more fruitful government system in Turkey. We should all accept that no one other than Erdoğan could have prepared Turkey for this unquestionably essential and useful system. Hence, previously many leaders in the past had opened the topic, but had to close it immediately, because none of them were accepted by the masses as much as Erdoğan.

Let’s look at the issue from this perspective: The current parliamentarian system is a system that can no longer carry Turkey. A decision to destruct has been made, therefore we need to evacuate the premises immediately. We can talk for hours or write pages about the risks of continuing with the current system. As the Turkish community, we need to shift Turkey away from a risky system to a system that can carry us better, a system that is more comfortable. There will be many people who will be disturbed by this change and whose interests will be harmed. No social change happens without pain. But the objections made by those who are emotionally dependent on the current system unnecessarily dramatize the issue. In the objection to the presidential system, the argument made in efforts to address the AK Party side and convince them is that the presidential authorities may become very dangerous in the case they are in the hands of someone else who is elected other than Erdoğan.

Clearly this objection does not consider what less authorities the president has in the current situation. Meanwhile it aims to exhaust all possibilities at once. Yet, politics is an infinite struggle phase and there is no democratic system that will ensure that the same person wins all the time.

The good thing about a democratic system is that you constantly prove to the society the point of “good management.” If you cannot prove yourself the public will send you, bring someone in place of you, and you would have deserved this outcome. You should never be afraid of this. No one should be afraid of or worry about the society choosing a president that is strange to its culture, beliefs, dreams and semantic world. The society will surely understand what is good or bad for it better than you would. Not choosing you does not actually mean they have made a bad choice for themselves. It is likely that they have not seen any advantage for themselves in the case they choose you.

I would like to express a sociological determination that has concretized through Erdoğan’s personality and has turned into a piece of information for those who argue that the presidential system will be good with Erdoğan, but will not work without him or after him:

Erdoğan filled all positions with his distinctive political performance and contributed greatly, and was effective in his party, the parliament and presidency – something that many would never have the chance to do. In a sense, he deserved such a government and thus used it. As he always gained his power from the people while governing it, no one questioned his power. No one should expect such a leader, such a powerful figure to come out all the time; this is impossible historically or sociologically. He is charismatic and this charisma is an asset that has been beneficial to and developed the country. However, becoming routine is destined to follow times of charisma. The institutionalization of this country’s gains is the way to manage this well. The change at issue is exactly what will provide this institutionalization and no one should be concerned as this institutionalization is much more convenient in achieving the separation of powers and effective administration.

Even they have no more authorities than they already do, I would like to say one more thing in relation to concerns about this: All in all, even the most perfect of systems is not independent from or fully protected against man. A bad administrator put in charge of the most perfect system can ruin everything. On the contrary, a good administrator put in charge of the worst system can actually prosper a country.

Hence, even at a time the system and the constitution was a failure, Erdoğan successfully managed this country and carried it to the point we are at now. There are many contrary examples in history, but I am out of room to list them. We will continue to think.

*Yasin Aktay is the vice chair of the ruling Justice and Development (AK Party) in Turkey.

(Published in Yeni Şafak Turkısh newspaper on Monday, Jan. 16,  2017)