Erdoğan’s plans for a new constitution raise concerns over boosting his powers

Although Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been calling for an entirely new constitution for the country, he is likely to amass even more power for his executive presidency rather than deal with a constitution writing process, Turkey Program Coordinator Merve Tahiroğlu wrote for the think tank Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) on Thursday.

Last week Erdoğan spoke on the need to draft a new and civilian constitution for Turkey, stressing that the country's last two constitutions, enacted in 1961 and 1982, had been drafted under military rule following coups.

While Erdoğan’s ruling cabinet backed the idea, opposition parties were critical and urged Erdoğan to stop violating the current constitution, Tahiroğlu said.

“Many dismissed the seriousness of his proposal altogether as an attempt by Erdoğan to change the agenda and distract people from political winds shifting against him,” she said.

Government officials have denied such claims, but according to Tahiroğlu, Erdoğan might still be planning to lower the electoral threshold for the presidency.

According to the existing constitution, candidates need more than 50 percent of the vote in order to be elected president. If no candidate clears the extremely high threshold, a second round of elections is held.

Earlier in 2019, top members of Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) were discussing whether the threshold should be lowered to 40 percent to allow for a candidate to win the presidency in the first round.

Erdoğan dismissed the matter, saying the executive presidential system that he championed himself would serve the Turkish nation for years to come.

Tahiroğlu said that, even though Erdoğan won the last election by 53 percent, “now he has a real electability problem.”

The next presidential elections are scheduled for June 2023, along with the parliamentary elections.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.