Presidentialism, parliamentarianism and veto players in Turkey

While President Recep Tayyip Erdogan aims to create a stronger and more authoritarian presidential system, the relative virtues and vices of both presidentialism and parliamentarianism have been recently subject to a vigorous debate in Turkey. The pro-Erdogan media argues that the biggest problem caused by parliamentarianism is instability as a result of coalitions. On the other hand, the opponents of presidentialism suggest that Erdoganand’s rule in the parliamentary system has already terminated checks and balances in the political system, and that presidentialism under his rule may even turn the country into a dictatorship. However, debates over presidentialism do not include issues such as whether it fits the Turkish social structure or political culture. Erdoganist commentators suggest that presidentialism in the US has been a success story and therefore it can be applied in Turkey as well. It is correct that the presidentialism in the US has achieved unparalleled success. However, this does not necessarily mean that it could be successfully applied in Latin America, Turkey or elsewhere. In fact, presidentialism in many Latin American countries has turned them into autocracies, not democracies. Erdoganist circles do not present any arguments on how presidentialism could increase the quality of Turkish democracy. Therefore, as many in Turkey believe, sudden changes in the political system could result in unexpected consequences. While Erdoganists claim that parliamentarianism causes coalitions and instability, they fail to recall how Erdoganand’s governments ruled Turkey without coalitions under parliamentarianism for years. When Erdogan and his associates refer to presidentialism, they do not mention how essential the separation of powers is in this type of system. They do not recall how the Senate, House of Representatives and Supreme Court counter-balance the presidentand’s power in the American presidential system. In the American presidential system, the president has the authority to set a legislative agenda. However, this does not mean that presidents can implement all the decisions they want to execute. In the policy-making structure, there are three kinds of power: agenda-setting power, which is often attributed to the executive, veto power and implementation power. The president may take the initiative and set the legislative agenda. But this doesnand’t necessarily mean that he can easily implement his initiatives. One of the most well-known examples in American political history is when President Woodrow Wilson tried to support the Treaty of Versailles but could not secure a two-thirds majority in the Senate as required by the US Constitution. As a result, the treaty was not ratified. On the other hand, the US Constitution requires every bill or act of legislation by Congress to be approved by the president. This gives the president the option of signing the bill or rejecting the bill completely. The president can also choose not to sign the bill, which will be passed or simply die depending on how long Congress is in session. However, even if the president vetoes a bill, his veto can be overridden by a two-thirds majority in both chambers. In his article titled and”President Clinton and the Republican Congress, 1995-2000: Political and Policy Dimensions of Veto Politics in Divided Governmentand” political scientist Richard S. Conley explains the rationale of the veto power of American presidents: and”President William Jefferson Clinton did not set out to master Congress by the explicit or implicit use of the veto power. He cast not a single veto in the 103rd Congress (1993andndash94). However, the dramatic return of divided government following the elections of 1Dogan, and Republicansand’ continued control of both chambers of Congress through the end of his second term, forced the president to adapt his legislative presidency to a radically altered political context. Clinton vetoed thirty-five bills (excluding pocket vetoes and line-item vetoes) from 1995andndash2000. Republican leaders challenged eleven of the thirty-five vetoes in one or the other chamber but managed to override the president only once. Further, Clinton relied on the implied use of the veto — veto threats — on over 140 bills, and he was generally successful in halting the Republicansand’ agenda or wresting policy concessions from the majority leadership.and” While American presidents have veto power over the legislature, the US Constitution gives the House of Representatives the sole power of impeachment for andquottreason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanorsand” and the Senate the sole power to try impeachments.
As political scientist George Tsebelis pointed out, and”political regimes can be analyzed for how many veto-players exist, which may have significant consequences on the degree of complexity of policy decision-making.and” By transforming the traditional institutions of Turkey, Erdogan is trying to seize the power of the other veto players in the system, such as the Constitutional Court. Compared to parliamentarianism, the presidential system has many aantages regarding political stability. But these aantages depend on many factors. If the opposition parties were the majority in Parliament, it would be almost impossible for a president to realize his policy agenda. Political parties in Turkey have sharp ideological identities and can barely find ways to negotiate. This is the most problematic aspect of the presidential system if it were to be applied in Turkey. Coalitions are not always good and do not last long. However, presidentialism is not the cure for the problems of parliamentarianism. Turkish presidentialism under the rule of Erdogan would probably look Venezuelan, not American.
hr *AyDogan Vatandai is an investigative journalist based in New York.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman