Erdogan’s great losing gamble

Henri J. Barkey writes: hese are unusual times in Turkey. This is not just because Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for a new round of voting after the June 7 general election, in which the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost its parliamentary majority for the first time since 2002 or because of the renewed violence with the Kurds. These are also unusual times because there is a great deal of confusion in Ankara: Who actually runs the country, the Prime Minister or the President?

If we were to judge by appearances—namely Erdogan’s forceful personality—then we would conclude that it is the President who is fully in charge, whereas Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu seems to be just a functionary executing the former’s orders. The Turkish Constitution makes the President an impartial, yet powerful, above-party leader. Executive power resides with the Prime Minister. However, because of a modification to the constitution, Erdogan in 2014 became the first President ever to be elected directly by the people instead of by Parliament. Erdogan has repeatedly said that this change is tantamount to a regime change in Turkey, because a popularly elected President is de facto imbued with greater powers.

Still, the informal control he exercises—through his influence over the AKP stalwarts, allied or fully controlled media organs, and his control over the bureaucracy through years of careful appointments of loyalists—is not enough for Erdogan. He wants to amend the constitution yet again to replace the parliamentary system with a presidential one—probably one that resembles France’s. [Continue reading…]

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