Leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Devlet Bahçeli has dismissed claims that his party will pursue different policies in Parliament and in a referendum regarding a government proposal on a switch to an executive presidency, saying that if the MHP casts its vote in favor of the proposal in Parliament, it will do likewise in the referendum.
Two weeks ago Bahçeli sparked a fresh debate over the introduction of an executive presidency in Turkey when he said there was a de facto situation in Turkey concerning its style of governance and that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was already acting like an executive president even though his post is largely ceremonial. Bahçeli said the situation needed to be resolved.
Bahçeli’s remarks were interpreted as supporting a switch to an executive presidency while Justice and Development Party (AKP) government officials have said they will bring a proposal concerning the change to an executive presidency to Parliament in January and present it in a referendum in April.
Some have claimed that the MHP will vote in favor of the change in Parliament but will say “no” to it in the referendum.
Countering these claims during his party’s parliamentary group meeting on Tuesday, Bahçeli said: “They say we will say yes in Parliament and no in the referendum. … While we have not yet said yes or no, as nothing is certain, those who act like the referendum has already been held and announce the results are nothing but coup supporters. … The MHP will say whatever it says in Parliament before the nation as well. If we say yes in Parliament, we will also say yes in the referendum.”
The AKP, which has 317 deputies in Parliament, needs the support of at least 13 more deputies from opposition parties to take a constitutional amendment on a switch to an executive presidency to referendum. Currently, there are 133 deputies from the Republican People’s Party (CHP), 59 from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), 40 deputies from the MHP and one independent in the Turkish Parliament.
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.