Turkey problem isn’t new system–it’s the president

Turkey’s people might have just approved a system giving President Erdogan new powers–but the system itself, if you read the amendments, is not a dictatorship–it’s similar to the American system. I talked about this a few minutes ago with host P.J. Maloney on KQV News Radio in Pittsburgh.

This is not a theoretical exercise. Turkey is a member of NATO, it’s hosting millions of refugees from Syria, and it’s a vital power in the Mideast region. What happens in Turkey affects the region, Europe, and the rest of the world.

I’ll copy a list of the amendments, courtesy of Wikipedia, if you want to take a look for yourself.

The problem is Erdogan. He is already acting like a dictator. He did not conduct a democratic election campaign–he imprisoned opponents, banned much campaigning against the constitutional amendments.

Even so, he won the vote by a narrow margin–he got just 51 percent support, and he lost in his country’s three main cities.

Despite the cries of irregularities and the complaints from European observers, this round is probably over. The next one is in two years, and it’s the important one.

All but three of the amendments (2, 4 and 7) take effect only after the next presidential election, set for 2019. Erdogan has two years to solidify his support, and his opponents have the same two years to get their act together to defeat him. That’s a big order–as elsewhere in the region, there are several opposition parties, and they agree on nothing except their opposition to the current ruler. Besides, Erdogan is in the position of power, and he has shown that he’s more than happy to abuse it.

So we’ll keep an eye on Turkey as this develops. Also be aware of the fact that the way things usually change in Turkey is through a military coup.

So no, this is not an American system of government, even if these amendments seem to set that up:

Description of proposed amendments
Proposal # Article Description of change
1 Article 9 The judiciary is required to act on condition of impartiality.
2 Article 75 The number of seats in the Parliament is raised from 550 to 600.
3 Article 76 The age requirement to stand as a candidate in an election to be lowered from 25 to 18, while the condition of having to complete compulsory military service is to be removed. Individuals with relations to the military would be ineligible to run for election.
4 Article 77 Parliamentary terms are extended from four to five years. Parliamentary and presidential elections will be held on the same day every five years, with presidential elections going to a run-off if no candidate wins a simple majority in the first round.
5 Article 87 The functions of Parliament are

  • Making, changing, removing laws.
  • Accepting international contracts.
  • Discuss, increase or decrease budget (on Budget Commission) and accept or reject the budget on General Assembly.
  • Appoint 7 members of HSYK
  • And using other powers written in the constitution
5 Article 89 To overcome a presidential veto, the Parliament needs to adopt the same bill with an absolute majority (301).
6 Article 98 Parliament now detects cabinet and Vice President with Parliamentary Research, Parliamentary Investigation, General Discussion and Written Question. Interpellation is abolished and replaced with Parliamentary Investigation. Vice President needs to answer Written Questions within 15 days.
7 Article 101 In order to stand as a presidential candidate, an individual requires the endorsement of one or more parties that won 5% or more in the preceding parliamentary elections and 100,000 voters. The elected president no longer needs to terminate their party membership if they have one.
8 Article 104 The President becomes both the head of state and head of government, with the power to appoint and sack ministers and Vice President. The president can issue decrees about executive. If legislation makes a law about the same topic that President issued an executive order, decree will become invalid and parliamentary law become valid.
9 Article 105 Parliament can open parliamentary investigation with an absolute majority (301). Parliament discusses proposal in 1 month. Following the completion of Discussion, Parliamentary investigation can begin in Parliament with a hidden three-fifths (360) vote in favor. Following the completion of investigations, the parliament can vote to indict the President with a hidden two-thirds (400) vote in favor.
10 Article 106 The President can appoint one or more Vice Presidents. If the Presidency falls vacant, then fresh presidential elections must be held within 45 days. If parliamentary elections are due within less than a year, then they too are held on the same day as early presidential elections. If the parliament has over a year left before its term expires, then the newly elected president serves until the end of the parliamentary term, after which both presidential and parliamentary elections are held. This does not count towards the President’s two-term limit. Parliamentary investigations into possible crimes committed by Vice Presidents and ministers can begin in Parliament with a three-fifths vote in favor. Following the completion of investigations, the parliament can vote to indict Vice Presidents or ministers with a two-thirds vote in favor. If found guilty, the Vice President or minister in question is only removed from office if their crime is one that bars them from running for election. If a sitting MP is appointed as a minister or Vice President, their parliamentary membership will be terminated.
11 Article 116 The President and three-fifths of the Parliament can decide to renew elections. In this case, the enactor also dissolves itself until elections.
12 Article 119 The President’s ability to declare state of emergency is now subject to parliamentary approval to take effect. The Parliament can extend, remove or shorten it. States of emergency can be extended for up to four months at a time except during war, where no such limitation will be required. Every presidential decree issues during a state of emergency will need an approval of Parliament.
13 Article 125 The acts of the President are now subject to judicial review.
13 Article 142 Military courts are abolished unless they are erected to investigate actions of soldiers under conditions of war.
13 Article 146 The President used to appoint one Justice from High Military Court of Appeals, and one from the High Military Administrative Court. As military courts are abolished, the number of Justices in the Constitutional Court reduced to 15 from 17. Consequently, presidential appointees reduced to 12 from 14, while the Parliament continues to appoint three.
14 Article 159 Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors is renamed to “Board of Judges and Prosecutors”, members are reduced to 13 from 22, departments are reduced to 2 from 3. 4 members are appointed by President, 7 will be appointed by the Grand Assembly. Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) candidates will need to get 2/3 (400) votes to pass first round and will need 3/5 (360) votes in second round to be a member of HSYK.(Other 2 members are Justice Minister and Ministry of Justice Undersecretary, which is unchanged).
15 Article 161 President proposes fiscal budget to Grand Assembly 75 days prior to fiscal new year. Budget Commission members can make changes to budget but Parliamentary members cannot make proposals to change public expenditures. If the budget is not approved, then a temporary budget will be proposed. If the temporary budget is also not approved, the previous year’s budget would be used with the previous year’s increment ratio.[note 1]
16 Several articles Adaptation of several articles of the constitution with other changes, mainly transferring executive powers of cabinet to President
16 Article 123 President gets power to create States.
17 Temporary Article 21 Next presidential and General elections will be held on 3 November 2019. If Grand Assembly decides early elections, both will be held at the same day. Board of Judges and Prosecutors elections will be made within 30 days of approval of this law. Military courts will be abolished once the law comes into force.
18 Applicability of amendments 1-17 The amendments (2, 4 and 7) will come into force after new elections, other amendments (except temporary article) will come into force once newly elected president is sworn in. Annulled the article which elected Presidents forfeit membership in a political party. This constitutional amendment will be voted in a referendum as a whole.
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