Deputy pushes for presidential system, fuels fears of authoritarianism

Despite strong reactions from opposition parties in Parliament, Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Deputy Chairman Mehmet Ali Sahin asserted that Turkey “has to adopt the presidential system as soon as possible.”

Commenting on the fact that the president of Turkey will for the first time ever be elected through the popular vote, Sahin said: “It means, on one level, that Turkey has taken a concrete step towards the presidential system. We have to discuss the subject as soon as possible. Turkey has to consider adopting a presidential [and/or] semi-presidential system, in which people vote for the president.”

On a TV program on Monday, Sahin hinted that if Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan becomes Turkey’s next president, one of his four deputy prime ministers could fill the post of prime minister until the general elections in 2015. AK Party circles have been discussing whether Erdogan will run for the presidency in the August elections and, if he were to win, who would fill his position until the general elections next year.

Sahin said one of the deputy prime ministers could replace Erdogan and that he would prefer for President Abdullah Gul to return to the AK Party to become prime minister after the general elections. Gul served briefly as prime minister from 2002-2003.

The current deputy prime ministers are Bulent Arınc, Ali Babacan, Besir Atalay and Emrullah İsler.

Regarding Gul’s recent remark of having no future plans in politics under the current circumstances, Sahin argued that one sentence on the subject is not enough to reach a clear conclusion about what Gul meant, adding: “Our president is one of our political colleagues. If a duty falls upon President Gul, he will not avoid it. I am sure that he made these statements to halt speculation about his candidacy for presidency.”