CHARLOTTE – Change in the air

Change in the airThis Sunday, Aug. 10, Turks will be voting for a president for the first time since the founding of the Turkish Republic on Oct.

29, 1923.Many Westerners do not realize that Turkey is one of the few Muslim nations to have a true parliamentary democracy.

Based on the 1982 Constitution, it is a democratic, secular, parliamentary republic. Until recently its legislature, executive and judiciary have been independent of each other and the head of state who serves as the president has been elected by Parliament.

The role of the president has been to represent the andldquointegrity of the Turkish Republic and the Turkish nationandrdquo and be nonpartisan. The role has not been one to set the political agenda or lead the government: This has been the role of the prime minister and the council of ministers (Cabinet).

Some other functions have been that the president can veto laws passed by Parliament. The president also ensures that the Constitution is not violated, and that the government functions properly.

The unicameral Parliament, known in Turkish as the Turkiye Buyuk Millet Meclisi, is democratically elected. According to Wikipedia, in order to avoid a hung Parliament and major political fragmentation, a party must win at least 10 percent of the national vote to qualify for representation in Parliament.

As a result of the threshold, since 2002 very few parties have been represented.My American friends always find it interesting to hear that many political parties exist.

However, most Turks would agree there are three main ones: the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), the Republican Peopleand#39s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). It is important to note (for those who are not familiar with this procedure) that the leader of the party that wins the most seats is appointed prime minister The prime minister is the leader of a political coalition in Parliament and the leader of the Cabinet.

The outcome of this election may mean a new prime minister needs to be appointed. You see, should Recep Tayyip ErdoIan be elected president, he must resign from his present position in the AK Party and hand over party leadership and the position of prime minister to one or more of his colleagues.

The days leading up to this election have been different from any other Perhaps itand#39s because there has not been one like it before. The president is supposed to be nonpartisan.

The Constitution requires that those elected president cut ties with their political party so that they can act impartially.Having lived in Turkey for more than three decades and observed many campaigns and elections here, I can make this comparison: Usually before an election, the streets — everywhere — are covered in banners bearing the logos of political parties, and vans and buses drive around with loudspeakers blaring out lively music and promises for change.

Often there are more than 10 parties campaigning at one time. The parties range from conservative nationalists and fundamentalist Islamists on the right to the far left.

They are always changing because of internal differences and power struggles. Parties often split and give rise to new ones.

Sometimes they are shut down for illegal activities, and the same faces resurface later in a new party with a new name. This presidential campaign has not been like that at all.

Westerners are often surprised to learn that Turkish law is not based on Islamic, or Shariah, law. It is based on the Swiss code, which means that an act is illegal until specifically enabled by a body of law.

For the average American to understand this, it basically means itand#39s the opposite of what you believe — you believe one is innocent until proven guilty. Here, you are guilty until proven otherwise.

Many Turks are concerned about changes that have been introduced recently. The judiciary system, which has been independent, has seen some changes.

The courts include the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court of Appeals, the Council of State, the Supreme Council of Public Accounts, the Supreme Military Administrative Tribunal, the Military Court of Appeal, the Court of Jurisdictional Disputes and the Supreme Electoral Board. As a result of a referendum in September 2010, significant changes to the judicial system occurred, and recently further modifications made.

In all the change, just remember: When you are an expat living in another country a lot of things that happen may not always make sense to you, but I have the impression that many Turks feel the same these days.andldquoIt would be so nice if something made sense for a changeandhellipandquot andquotAliceand#39s Aentures in Wonderlandandquot.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman