Constitutional reforms aim to block return to parliamentary system, columnist says

The Turkish government’s planned constitutional reforms will bolster the president in an effort to block a return to a parliamentary system, Cumhuriyet columnist Selda Guneysu said on Friday.

Earlier this week, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan indicated his Justice and Development Party (AKP) could seek to alter the constitution as part of sweeping economic and legal reforms ahead of the 2023 elections.

Erdoğan met with Devlet Bahçeli, leader of the AKP’s junior coalition partner the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) on Thursday, with the two leaders agreeing to further strengthen the presidential system, Guneysu said.

Bahçeli backed Erdoğan’s bid to secure expansive executive powers during the 2017 constitutional referendum. And the MHP leader said on Tuesday the current constitution was inhibiting the new presidential system.

“Accordingly, a change in the decree powers of the president is not envisaged," with the reforms instead aimed at blocking opposition efforts to restore the parliamentary system, Guneysu said.

A return to pre-2017 parliamentary system is one of the few proposals that unites Turkey’s opposition parties. And the issue has gained traction amid a faltering economy under Erdoğan’s strengthened leadership. 

But Guneysu said the AKP and MHP will seek the support of other groups in parliament to secure the 360 votes necessary to alter the constitution.

However, no changes will be made to the current electoral system, another key demand of the opposition, Guneysu said.

Critics argue the requirement for a president to be elected by an absolute majority of the popular vote introduced in 2017 favours Erdoğan against the opposition’s more fragmented electoral coalition.