Turkey constitution changes based on 'presidential system, checks and balances, and accountability'

31 October 2016
A meeting of the ruling AK party (photo credit: Daily Sabah)
A meeting of the ruling AK party (photo credit: Daily Sabah)

Turkey's ruling AK Party has prepared two different constitutional amendment packages that were built on three fundamental principles: A full presidential system, check and balances and accountability. Ankara is expected to reveal these packages after discussing them with the opposition MHP

The constitutional changes that will potentially allow the country to switch to a presidential system have been a hot topic in domestic politics since Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Chairman Devlet Bahçeli signaled a few weeks ago that the party would support constitutional changes if they address party politics and sensitivities relevant to the MHP. In that regard, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has been working on several different proposals that could be used to reach a compromise with the opposition. One high-level AK Party source told Daily Sabah that two different constitutional amendment packages have been finalized and will be proposed to the MHP in the coming days after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım have done the final check this week.

Currently, the AK Party has 317 seats while the MHP has 40; the combined seats of the two parties are not enough for the direct passing of the proposal. Yet, if the proposal receives between 330 and 366 votes, the constitutional change can be moved for a referendum, which pushes the AK Party to seek agreement with opposition MHP. Accordingly, the AK Party has prepared two different constitutional amendment packages. The first one consists of only 17 articles which include a full presidential system and articles regarding the regulation of transition periods of the parliamentary system. In the meantime, the AK Party's second amendment package consists of 59 articles and is considered a more comprehensive package, designed to replace all articles of the current 1982 Constitution which was written by military junta after the 1980 coup.

The AK Party is expected to reveal these packages after discussing them with the MHP and, if a compromise is reached, one of the packages will be submitted to Parliament within 10 days. A high-level source also indicated that both of these packages were built on three fundamental principles which are a full presidential system, check and balances and accountability. The AK Party's presidential system will include a unicameral Parliament as opposed to a bicameral one, which is typically seen in countries with an existing presidential system. Furthermore, there will be an effective separation of powers, along with an extensive checks and balances mechanism.

In accordance with the reformed separation of powers principle, the Parliament will have the duty of overseeing the president's actions, to a certain extent."We aim to minimize the possibility of confrontation of legislative and executive power with two packages," a high-level AK Party source said under condition of anonymity. "With these proposals, neither the president will dominate the Parliament nor will Parliament have the power to block the system," a source added.

According to the proposals, when the president considers renewal of the Parliamentary elections necessary, the presidential election will also be renewed on the same date. The current Constitution states no appeal shall be made to any judicial authority, including the Constitutional Court, against the decisions and orders signed by the president. Both of the AK Party's proposals change this article and hold the president accountable for the decisions and orders like prime ministers. In addition the proposals suggest that all the ministers have to be chosen among non-parliamentarian figures. Moreover, if one parliamentarian is appointed as minister, his/her deputyship will end automatically, the proposals suggest.

The AK Party source also indicated that they are planning to drop the election threshold to 5 percent from the current 10 percent and change the election system to a single-member district system. After switching the system to a presidential one, AK Party officials expect President Erdoğan's continuation of his duty without having a new presidential election.

Daily Sabah

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