Facing strong resistance to a presidential system change, Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has begun reconsidering the idea of a semi-presidential system similar to the one in France, with a senior executive of the party arguing that Turkey’s existing parliamentarian system and France’s semi-presidential system differ very little.
“Turkey needs to transition into a new governing system and we believe that presidential system is the ideal form for doing so because this way, the issue about the presidency will be fundamentally resolved. Double-headedness will also be removed because responsibility, authority and leadership will be defined in a system where there will be an exact separation of powers through separate elections for parliament and president” Mustafa Şentop, an Istanbul deputy of the AKP who also heads the parliament’s constitution commission, said over the weekend.
“However, we say that a semi-presidential system can be discussed if a presidential system is not applied. As a matter of fact, the system here in Turkey is not so much different from the semi-presidential system in France. There are two very fundamental differences; in France, the president is at the same time the head of the cabinet; that’s to say no cabinet meeting is held in absence of the president” Şentop said, recalling that the system in Turkey stipulates the same right “when necessary.”
Elaborating on the second difference he mentioned, Şentop said the cabinet in France is responsible to both the parliament and the president, whereas in Turkey, the president is only responsible to the parliament.
“The government may be dissolved only by the parliament [in Turkey]. Here, the president who appoints the council of ministers doesn’t have the authority to dissolve it. However, such authority exists in the semi-presidential system. Such a change, which would have the president as head of the cabinet and would hold the cabinet responsible to both the parliament and the president, would eliminate differences with the French system. That’s to say, right now, Turkey is [very close] to a semi-presidential system” he said.
In the run-up to the presidential election in August 2014, which he won in the first round, Erdoğan repeatedly stated that the current constitution grants “executive power” to a president who comes to office via popular vote, just as the 1982 constitution granted “executive power” to the 1980 coup leader Kenan Evren.
Since being elected to his current post, Erdoğan has chaired a number of cabinet meetings, arguing that this is a constitutional right granted to any head of the Turkish state.
Among the duties and powers relating to executive functions of the president, Article 104 of the constitution lists “presiding over the Council of Ministers or calling the Council of Ministers to meet under his or her chairmanship whenever he or she deems it necessary.”
Şentop’s remarks came only a few days after the ruling and main opposition parties traded accusations over the dissolving of an inter-party parliamentary panel tasked with drafting a new constitution after just three sessions last week. The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) left the table on Feb. 16, complaining that the ruling AKP had tried to link all issues to changing Turkey from a parliamentary to a presidential system.