Turkey is set to hold a referendum on April 16 to vote on a significant constitutional package that will profoundly change the political system in Turkey. The current constitution has gone through 18 amendments so far, however, this time it's quite different from the previous changes because it is aimed at changing Turkey's government model.
Turkey will switch to an administration model where the government is led by a popularly elected president from the current model where Parliament is led by a prime minister. Parliament and the government will be separated and the executive body will not emerge from the legislative body. Because the government model will change, the executive body's relationship to the legislative and judicial powers will also change. Even though the package includes 18 articles, it actually concerns 67 topics.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ratified the package and offered it to Parliament, and now the referendum campaign has started. It would be useful to remind everyone once again that the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) support the changes to be made in the referendum.
The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), many deputies of which are in jail on charges of supporting PKK terror, object to the package jointly prepared by the AK Party and MHP. They argue that the current Turkish parliamentary system must continue.
However, I must note that the HDP and PKK's jailed leader Abdullah Öcalan previously defended the presidential system. It seems the HDP has taken up this position against President Erdoğan and the AK Party. As such, the CHP is the only party that is expected to object to the package and maintain a coherent policy. Its identity is tied with the history of the Republic and was the government of the single-party period from 1923 to 1950. When free elections were held in this country, the CHP lost its power. So, it is not surprising that it supports the continuation of the current system, which keeps bureaucratic tutelage alive.
Let us move on to the AK Party and MHP. The AK Party, more precisely its leader Erdoğan, has argued for many years that Turkey must get rid of its bureaucratic tutelary order. He is a politician who has struggled with the system and has been targeted by it. In fact, if the AK Party had had enough quorum in Parliament, it would have aim to launch a brand new, more liberal and pluralistic constitution.
However, it needed the MHP's support and it had to prepare a package under these circumstances. It basically aims to reduce mechanisms that restrict the public will, paving the way for a strong government and enable the system to run more smoothly. It promises to switch to an approach of double legitimacy from single legitimacy.
In other words, while the public elects the Parliament alone in the current system, they will elect both the Parliament and president in the new system. Also, while some members of higher judicial bodies are determined by the judiciary itself in the current system, they will be determined by the popularly elected Parliament and president in the new one.
In fact, when former President Abdullah Gül ran for president in Parliament in 2007, the military and judicial tutelage in Turkey objected to it and strove to prevent his candidacy by pushing the Constitution with the CHP's support. Following this, the AK Party held elections and increased its votes, paving the way for the president being elected by the public with a constitutional amendment.
Since then, there has been a lot of negativity between the current position of the president and the nature of the presidency. The law must exist not to deem things as if they do not exist, but to make laws that are compatible with existing things. This package aims to eliminate this incompatibility as well as many other things. Therefore, the MHP supports it, thinking that the system has come to a deadlock that must be solved. So, it says the package must be voted on.