Jul 09 2018

Erdoğan primes himself for ‘super presidency’

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will take the reins of a ‘super presidency’ at an inauguration ceremony in Ankara on Monday.

Erdoğan will get unprecedented powers to rule Turkey after his proposal to strengthen his office was narrowly approved in a public referendum in April 2017. He then followed that up by winning re-election last month with 52 percent of the vote, thanks partly to his grip on the media.

The powers of Erdoğan, which include the enhanced ability to dissolve parliament, call elections and appoint court officials and civil servants, mean Turkey is now a democracy in name only, his critics say. The post of prime minister is dissolved as of Monday and the country’s parliamentary democracy has been abolished.

Erdoğan says he will now end a state of emergency, which he has presided over since an attempted military coup in July 2016, but his new powers mean the step is largely superficial.

“Lifting emergency rule is, at best, symbolic and in terms of substance, it is meaningless,” said Wolfango Piccoli, research director at Teneo Intelligence, according to the Financial Times. “Turkey is going to be the same story. Transparency and normalisation of politics and society is not coming anytime soon.”

On Sunday, Erdoğan purged more than 18,500 people from the civil service for allegedly posing a threat to national security. Their passports were confiscated. The dismissals now total about 130,000 since the failed coup, which Erdoğan blames on a clandestine Islamist movement. His critics say he has used the coup to impose a wider crackdown on his political opponents.

Nine thousand police were among those dismissed. Turkey now plans to recruit 10,000 more officers, according to local media reports. Three newspapers and one TV channel were also shut down under Sunday’s decree.

“The purge is surprising in its magnitude and many will accuse Erdoğan of going after anyone who opposes him,” said Ghanem Nuseibeh, founder of London based political risk consultants Cornerstone Global Associates, Bloomberg reported.

Erdoğan will be inaugurated in parliament. The ceremony will be followed by a lavish dinner at his $500 million presidential palace, attended by political leaders from Russia, Central Asia, the Balkans and Africa.

The president will have the power to issue decrees as part of his new package of powers. When deemed necessary, he can still declare a state of emergency restricting basic rights and freedoms, which have been curtailed even before the coup attempt.

Also on Monday, Erdoğan will directly appoint members of his new Presidential Cabinet, which is expected to contain 16 ministers, down from 27 under the previous government system. At least several of the ministers will be un-elected figures. He will also appoint members of powerful advisory boards that will come under his direct authority. Ministerial positions will become bureaucratic rather than executive, Cemil Ertem, a senior adviser to Erdoğan, said last week.

Erdoğan will also have the power to appoint all bureaucrats and has already ordered that job applicants apply directly to his palace with their resumes.

Turkey’s new parliament, with greatly weakened powers of oversight, will be controlled by Erdoğan’s governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the ultra-right Nationalist Action Party (MHP), which favours promoting enhanced national security over democracy.

Erdoğan claims Turkey is becoming more democratic, denying it has become an authoritarian state under his leadership. The new presidential system is modelled on France and the United States, he says.

Ratings agencies and investors are concerned that the new presidency will mean it will be more difficult to predict government policy. The lira has slumped more than 15 percent against the dollar this year, partly on concern about Erdoğan's enhanced control over economic and monetary policy, which prioritises growth over taming inflation, and his aggressive foreign policy. He has targeted the United States and other Western countries for severe criticism and allied with Russia and Iran in Syria.