57% of Turks say Turkey must preserve the current parliamentary system of government, a survey by polling agency Ipsos showed as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has reheated the debate over executive presidential system.
Emboldened by his Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) landslide victory in the November 1 elections, Erdogan is once again pushing for constitutional amendments that would give him more powers. Erdogan’s renewed attempts to establish a presidential system may provoke social tensions when Turkey is split down the middle between the AKP’s supporters and its opponents.
Only 31% said Turkey must move to a presidential form of government, said Ipsos.
Parliament must prioritise discussions on a new constitution, said Erdogan on November 4, adding that PM Ahmet Davutoglu would consult opposition leaders.
The AKP won 49.5% of the vote in the snap polls, securing 317 seats in the 550-seat parliament, more than the 276 seats needed to form a government. The ruling party, however, failed to secure a super-majority – 330 seats – that would allow it to hold a referendum on giving more executive powers to Erdogan. Thus, if the AKP wants to pass the constitutional amendments, it will have to seek compromise with the opposition parties.
If the AKP’s vote in the November elections is any indication, a possible referendum on a new constitution will be a knife-edge race. The Ipsos survey, however, suggests that voters see the parliamentary elections in which they choose a government and presidential system as two separate issues and people who voted for the AKP may not necessarily vote in favour of constitutional amendments that will let Erdogan formally concentrate power in his hands.
The main opposition Republican Peoples’ Party (CHP) and the Kurdish party HDP have already indicated that they would welcome constitutional changes if those amendments only could bring more freedoms, but they would not support the presidential system.
The nationalist MHP, which lost ground to the AKP in the November elections, has not made its official view public after Erdogan put the debate back on the political agenda. Internal problems may rise within the MHP after the election defeat which may prompt some MHP lawmakers to defect and join the AKP. But there has not been any indication of such mutiny among the party members, at least at the moment. The MHP’s votes fell to 11.9% (40 seats) from 16.3% in June.
The presidential system debate is likely to dominate the political agenda in the period ahead. But, the new government will have some other urgent issues to deal with, such as the Kurdish conflict and long-delayed but badly-needed economic reforms to boost economic growth. If the new government spends much of its time and energy on the presidential debate, the economic reforms could be further delayed.
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