Turkish far-right leader Bahçeli calls for reforms strengthening presidential system

The leader of Turkey’s Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Devlet Bahçeli said on Sunday the government should focus on political reforms and prioritise strengthening the presidential system in the country, Cumhuriyet daily reported.

"MHP believes there is a need to undertake some reforms regarding the presidential government system which was adopted for the normalisation of democracy in Turkey, attaining peace and confidence as a nation, as well as for our political system to earn respect," Bahçeli said in his statement for Eid holiday celebrations.

Meanwhile, Bahçeli last week called for a swift change in six laws that will greatly alter the political process in Turkey, including the country’s political party laws, electoral laws and parliamentary bylaws.

The current political party law stipulates that a party must finalise its organisation in more than half of the cities in Turkey and hold its first convention six months before the election date. Additionally, a political party with a group in parliament of at least 20 lawmakers is eligible to participate in the elections and nominate a presidential candidate. Such a party would also qualify for financial aid from the Treasury for the elections.

While the MHP leader fell short of saying what sort of changes he envisaged to the present laws, analysts said the Erdoğan ally is eyeing regulations that prevent deputies from switching political parties or increasing the current deputy requirement of 20 for the formation of a parliamentary group.

The leader of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kılıçdardoğlu, last week said that the CHP would be willing to provide support by way of deputies for the newly formed DEVA and Future Party should they wish to form a group to enter parliament ahead of the next elections. 

"We express these thoughts every time. When we consider the latest developments, it is understood that these reforms should be made urgently," Bahçeli said.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and MHP formed an alliance after a failed coup attempt in 2016. Their alliance was formalised when the two parties made up what they called a People’s Alliance ahead of the presidential and parliamentary elections of June 2018.

Turkey voted to move to the new system in a referendum in 2017, which was held during a period of emergency rule following a failed coup attempt in July 2016.

The new system has done away with the position of prime minister and handed executive power to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, also tying key institutions to the presidency.

Erdoğan’s AKP said the new system would allow for the smoother running of government and place the parliament, in charge of legislature, as a counterweight to the president’s executive powers.

But critics say it has tightened Erdoğan’s grip on the country and ushered in one-man rule.