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Draft law seeks to prevent Erdoğan from using discretionary funds during election campaigns

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan AFP

A lawmaker from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has submitted a bill to the Turkish Parliament that would prevent the president from using discretionary funds during election campaigns.

The bill, submitted by CHP lawmaker Ali Haydar Hakverdi, requires that the president not use discretionary funds from the time the Supreme Election Board (YSK) announces the election schedule for presidential, parliamentary or local elections until the election results are officially announced.

Discretionary funds are allocated to the president, the government or state organs from a yearly state budget. Users of discretionary funds are offered some guidelines as to how they will use these funds but also enjoy flexibility in their use. The funds are not for a particular project. Discretionary funds can be used without approval from parliament or any other state institution and are seen as a tool to help the government achieve its goals without spending much time on bureaucratic paperwork.

Recalling that Turkey now has a president who is affiliated with a political party, unlike heads of state prior to a referendum in 2017, Hakverdi said discretionary funds cannot be used by the president or his family for the running of a political party, its election campaign or propaganda.

Turkey switched from a parliamentary system to a presidential system of governance in 2017. The new system, which grants the president vast powers, came into force in 2018 when Erdoğan was elected president for a second term.

Despite objections from opposition parties, a regulation granting a discretionary fund to the presidency was passed in March 2015 as part of a government-sponsored omnibus bill in the Turkish Parliament.

According to the regulation, which made changes to the Public Finance Management and Control Law, which provides discretionary funds for the prime ministry, which no longer exists under the new system, the president is able to use the fund “for state necessities that contain discreet intelligence and defense services; the national security and higher interests of the state; political, social and cultural purposes; and extraordinary services.”

Erdoğan, who is known to exceed the limits of the discretionary funds allocated for his use, is frequently criticized for using public resources for his ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) election campaign.

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