Turkish opposition MP calls for alliance against presidential system

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) is calling on all opposition parties to strive for a return to the parliamentary system, CHP lawmaker Fikret Şahin told Ahval.

When the country transitioned to an executive presidential system in 2018, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) said this would streamline the government and reduce delays in passing crucial legislation.

But critics of the new system say it has amassed unparalleled power in the hands of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, ushering in a system of de facto one-man rule. Calls for a return to a parliamentary system have become a rallying cry for an otherwise divided opposition.

The system has effectively "ended the principle of separation of powers, restricting the authorities of the legislation, allowing the executive to hold the judiciary under its influence,” Şahin said.

“The presidential system has made a tradition out of careless and hurried legislation passed in omnibus bills,” he said.

“Since the world sees this system of governance as having dictatorial tendencies, investors are coming to view Turkey as an unreliable country and this has negatively affected all economic indicators,” he said.

Turkey’s economy was stricken by a currency crisis in August 2018, just weeks after the new system was inaugurated, when U.S. President Donald Trump sanctioned Erdoğan’s government over the imprisonment of an American pastor on espionage charges.

The crisis cut the lira’s value by nearly 30 percent against the dollar by the end of that year, and the country’s economy is still seen as vulnerable. The AKP was dealt a serious blow in the local elections, held last year in March amid the worst effects of the downturn, when it lost control of five out Turkey’s most populous provinces, including Istanbul and Ankara.

“The Istanbul election in particular was like a new referendum on the presidential system, and the citizens showed that they were not happy with this style of governance and that it doesn’t suit our country,” said Şahin.

The lawmaker said the success of his party and its alliance partners in the local elections, coupled with the instability Turkey has faced since 2018, were a clear indicator of the presidential system’s failure, and called on other parties to join the CHP’s struggle.

“I believe our alliance will be strengthened in the coming period with parties that can contribute to our struggle for freedom, democracy and equality,” he said.

The CHP was helped to its victories in last year’s elections by unofficial support in many municipalities from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). The opposition could be strengthened this year by the establishment of two new parties by former AKP heavyweights who have turned away from the ruling party.

© Ahval English

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.