CHP leader asks Bahçeli why MHP seeks to legitimize de facto executive presidency

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Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the Republican People's Party (CHP). / AFP PHOTO / OZAN KOSE

The leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) has criticized the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) over its indirect support for a switch to a presidential system of governance in Turkey on the grounds that a de facto executive presidency already exists in the country, asking why it is helping to legitimize a de facto situation.

“Let’s make the de facto situation a legitimate one. Why are we doing this? Why don’t we feel the need to ask him [President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] ‘Why don’t you abide by the law? Why don’t you abide by the Constitution?’ If we are to facilitate the fulfillment of just one person’s aspirations, then what is the purpose of this Parliament?” asked Kılıçdaroğlu, speaking at his party’s parliamentary group meeting on Tuesday.

His remarks came in response to MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli, who recently sparked a fresh debate about the introduction of a presidential system in Turkey with remarks suggesting that the de facto executive presidency in Turkey should be eliminated and should gain legal status.

“What the MHP has been saying is obvious. The dangerous games being played over the system of governance bear the risk of turning into a regime crisis. The de facto situation should either be eliminated, or it should gain legal status and allow Turkey to find peace. There is nothing wrong in asking the nation their view. We are not afraid of going to the nation,” said Bahçeli in his latest remarks on the issue, also speaking at his party’s parliamentary group meeting on Tuesday.

The post of the president is largely ceremonial in Turkey; however, President Erdoğan has been acting as an executive president since his election to the top state post in August 2014. Erdoğan is a strong supporter of a switch to the presidential system. Yet, critics say Erdoğan wants a “Turkish style” executive presidency without checks and balances, one that is aimed at creating one-man rule.

“I would like to appeal to the esteemed leaders of our political parties here. The person who was elected to presidency took a presidential oath in Parliament. He promised to remain loyal to this oath. So, when this person acts outside the boundaries of his post, it is our duty to remind him of the rules,” said Kılıçdaroğlu.

The CHP leader also accused the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government of capitalizing on a state of emergency which is currently in effect in the country to introduce an executive presidency while there are many human rights violations in Turkey.

A state of emergency was declared in Turkey following a failed coup attempt on July 15.

Turkey experienced a military coup attempt on July 15 that killed over 240 people and wounded more than a thousand others. Immediately after the putsch, the AKP government along with President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement despite the lack of any evidence.

Although the Gülen movement strongly denies having any role in the putsch, the government accuses it of having masterminded the foiled coup. Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, called for an international investigation into the coup attempt, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

More than 105,000 people have been purged from state bodies, 72,000 detained and some 34,000 arrested since the coup attempt. Arrestees include journalists, judges, prosecutors, police and military officers, academics, governors and even a comedian.

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