Reconsidering the Presidential System in Turkey


Insight Turkey Volume 18 No. 4, 2016

In pursuit of political stability, the debate about the system of government, and the advantages and disadvantages of a presidential system, is a critical factor in Turkey’s democratization process. Debated since the 1980’s, a transition from a parliamentary system to a semi or full presidential system was mooted by the late Presidents Turgut Özal and Süleyman Demirel, in addition to former Prime Minister Tansu Çiller. Proponents of a presidential system argue it offers greater political stability. Özal saw the parliamentary system as an obstacle to his reforms, describing the presidential system as a “generator of the transformation.” Demirel, who was elected president after Özal by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TBMM) on May 16, 1993, described the presidential post, in contrast to Özal, as one that should remain politically impartial. Demirel suggested a presidential system would have benefits beyond managing economic difficulties, arguing it offered a way out of various crises such as the weakening of the execution, the formation of fragmented politics after non-political interventions, the failure of the parliament to form a government, or the failure of a government to win the vote of confidence. Shortly after the establishment of the 59th Government in 2003, then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reignited the debate declaring Turkey would be poised to make a great leap forward if an American-type presidential system were to be agreed. The debate has waxed and waned in the intervening years but has gradually gained momentum since 2013.


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