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Future of Turkish democracy at stake
No matter what the outcome of Turkey’s election, a stronger country is in everyone's best interests. Should Turkey's democracy and economy begin to falter, the troubles in the Middle East will only exacerbate
Turkey is once again going through the familiar, hectic pace of elections, which will take place on June 24 (today). These elections are particularly important because subsequently, a completely new political system will be introduced to the country.
In this system, which is a type of a presidential system, there will be no coalition Governments. This is consequential because until 2002, Turkey had been ruled by a myriad of coalition Governments, which had not fared well for the country, neither economically nor politically. Therefore the new system promises to put an end to the instability that comes with coalition Governments. Election of new presidents has been another point that has always caused crisis in Turkey. Even when the title was only symbolic with very little power over the country’s affairs, presidential elections caused tension. The new system will hopefully put an end to that unnecessary strain.
The new system will not include a prime minister. The President will appoint the Council of Ministers, including Ministers and Deputy Ministers. Ministers will not be Parliament members, so they will either be appointed from outside the Parliament, or will have to resign first.
After the elections, there is a possibility that the party of the President and the majority party in the Parliament will be different. If that happens, the Opposition might lock the system and trigger a new crisis. However, the new system also offers ways to bypass such a crisis. If the President and the Parliament fail to agree on a point and cannot work reasonably, both the Parliament and the President can call for snap elections, leaving the decision to the people and easily solving the problem. However, the President will have only two rights to be in the office and if a snap election is called, one right will be lost.
The new system will also bring a plural democratic model, with mechanisms in place to avoid a dictatorship to be formed. For instance, the system will be based on the principle of separation of powers, and the terms of running the office will be limited and the president can be sued and brought to court.
The new political system is not the only novelty brought by these elections. There are also important changes in the election system. The most important one is that it allows parties to cooperate before the elections, which is widely used in many countries with minor differences. However, it is a novelty for Turkey. It will allow smaller parties in the alliance to enter the Parliament. This is crucial because there is a 10 per cent election threshold in Turkey, and many people fear that the system won’t allow everyone to be represented in Parliament. Smaller parties that cannot reach the 10 per cent threshold and are not able build such alliances, will not have representation in the Parliament.
The People’s Democratic Part (HDP) Party is in this situation at the moment. In fact this has been the hottest topic, discussed frequently amongst the public and in Turkish politics. Should HDP fail to reach the threshold, the ruling party will have an additional 30 MPs. The Opposition parties, mostly the Republican People’s Party (CHP) which is the main Opposition, believes that HPD’s influence in the Southeast Anatolia should continue. HDP says that if the second round takes place, they will support the CHP candidate. Needless to say, this is a risk for Turkey, because HDP finding representation in the Parliament is clearly risky in many ways since it is supported by the terrorist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
The Justice and Development Part (AK) Party has been in power for almost 16 years now and has based its election campaign on the projects it completed during its time. The third bridge passing over the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul, massive state hospitals, sub-sea tunnels that connect Asia and Europe, the world’s biggest airport, high-speed trains, airports in almost every Turkish city, bridge that is being built over the Dardanelles Strait, thousands of kilometer long highways and tunnels that link them, Kanal Istanbul project, new shipyards, new satellites launched into space, and the defense industry that is becoming more and more domestic are the most important leverage points for AK Party.
The ruling party also promises that the fight against FETO, the terror group behind the failed coup attempt of July 15, and the terror group PKK, will continue until terror has completely ended. President Erdogan also announced that after the elections, the State of Emergency would be lifted.
The Opposition, on the other hand, claims that many of AK Party’s projects are unnecessary, even wasteful. They claim that if they win the elections, they will either stop or even destroy those projects. CHP candidate Muharrem Ince claims that if he wins the elections, he will not use the Presidential Palace. He also doesn't approve of the new system and promises to go back to the parliamentary system if he is elected.
Criticisms against AK Party mostly focus on freedoms and basic rights. The reconstruction of the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors, lifting of the State of Emergency are among the election promises of the Opposition. Opposition parties, particularly CHP, object to the privatisation of public institutions and promise to take measures to make distribution of income more equitable.
If the Opposition does win the elections, there will also be radical changes in the Turkish foreign policy. For example, the Opposition says that they will send back 3.5 million Syrian refugees. The Opposition distanced itself from the Afrin operation in Syria. These are reasons that make people wary and anxious of an Opposition victory.
Fifty six million people will vote today. Even with these difficulties, Turkey is the most important democracy in the region. No matter what the outcome, a stronger country is in everyone’s best interests. Should Turkey’s democracy and economy begin to falter, the troubles in the Middle East will only exacerbate. For this reason, it is crucial that a strong Turkey is the result of this election. This is what we hope and pray for.
(The writer is a Turkish author)
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