Turkey’s ‘hyper-presidential system’ violates separation of powers, undermines parliament: report

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A report released by the Checks and Balances Network (Denge ve Denetleme Ağı, DDA), a Turkish umbrella group for 295 nongovernmental organizations, states that Turkey’s presidential system has concentrated power in the person of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, weakening the country’s institutions, especially parliament.

Through a referendum in April 2017, Turkey switched from a parliamentary system of governance to an executive presidential system, which granted Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) sweeping powers, criticized for removing constitutional checks and balances and thus leading to a further weakening of Turkish democracy.

The report, titled “The Presidency Government System as Turkey is about to go into 2021: Legislative and executive powers,” underlined that Turkey’s presidential system launched in July 2018 has had dramatic consequences in just over two years.

Turkey’s new system of governance has turned into a “hyper-presidential system,” the report said, due to allowing Erdoğan to hold the dual offices of head of government and head of the ruling party, with several regulatory and supervisory agencies coming under his control.

According to the report the new system disabled the powers of parliament and positioned the president as a figure with no constraints, making Erdoğan’s AKP government the sole decision-maker of the country.

“The Presidency Government System functions in a way that the executive power has been excessively expanded so that it also controls the legislative area, and the principle of separation of powers has been weakened in favor of the executive power,” the report said.

The president’s control over the legislature will only increase if no reforms are undertaken in the Political Parties Law to ensure that democracy is strengthened within the parties, the DDA warned.

The organization further stated that the exclusion of presidential decrees from parliamentary oversight and the lack of clear limits on their scope is “problematic in terms of democratic balances and inspection.”

“The system that normally allows deputies to file parliamentary questions to the vice president and ministers has not functioned well. The main issue here is that no enforcement mechanism has been defined if the relevant questions are not answered by the ministers,” the report also said.

The DDA suggested that the current system be reformed so that the head of state is no longer a party chairman. The organization also advised that the Political Parties Law be amended to eliminate the current “chair-centered party discipline.” It was further suggested that the system ensure that parliament can effectively audit the government and president.

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