Instead of democracy, a cimocracy

Turkey is now being ruled by an exceptional version of a presidential system. Everything is ultimately decided by the President, with ministries and the legislative branch having a marginal influence. But he also wants citizens to be able to reach the Palace directly. And CIMER is the answer!

On Monday evening, Twitter was full of AKP MPs thanking President Erdoğan. They were thanking the president for vetoing the bill they themselves passed just 12 days ago, despite objections from the opposition.

According to the bill, privatized thermal power plants in the country were granted a grace period of 2.5 years before they needed to install filters that protect human health and the environment. AKP Spokesman Ömer Çelik, following an AKP central executive board meeting, announced that President Erdoğan has used his presidential veto for the first time. Erdoğan believed the filters should be installed immediately. The very MPs who voted for the postponement spent their evening thanking the president for the veto. 

Besides exhibiting the change in the hierarchy of power that has been created by the presidential system, this occurrence also showed how little communication the AKP MPs have with their party leader — who is at the same time the president of the Republic. This also showed once again that the only decision making-mechanism that really matters in Turkish politics these days is based solely on the opinions of the President.

Turkey is now being ruled by an exceptional version of a presidential system. Everything is ultimately decided by the president, with only marginal influence by the ministries and legislative branch.

Erdoğan also wanted citizens to be able to reach the presidential palace directly. When he was the Prime Minister, he established a service known as BİMER. BİMER was formed so that citizens would be able to file their complaints about state institutions, services, other citizens, or pretty much anything they see as unfit.  Following the change in the government system, Erdogan established a service with a slightly different acronym, but the same function:CİMER. Now citizens are able to complain to either BİMER or CİMER. 

In 2018, 2,879,000 citizens applied to CİMER. Over four million answers, with more than one institution often answering a complaint, were given. To simplify things: millions of people who had issues with the state have not been able to solve their problems besides writing directly to the palace. This system only confirmed the current state of affairs in Turkey — that nobody but the palace has the practical authority to make a decision and take action. Citizens who just wanted a solution to their problems quickly sensed this change in the power structure, and rather than going to their local governors, MPs or ministries, applied directly to the palace.

In Trabzon, a 75-year-old man with prostate problems applied to CİMER to complain about his municipal bathroom cleaner. An investigation was conducted against the cleaner.

CİMER has also been used as a platform for some citizens to prove what they feel is their patriotic zeal. Some people have filed complaints to CİMER about the journalists they find harmful to the state, or have complained about their neighbors, colleagues or friends who curse at the president. There is no exact data on these kinds of complaints, but usually they do not go unanswered, and investigations are begun against journalists or ordinary citizens who allegedly acted unpatriotically.

It is hard to say if this system is as exceptional as the government claims. However, it is obvious that a clear separation of powers and a checks-and-balances system do not exist in Turkey anymore. It is hard to still call this a democracy, but maybe a more appropriate name could now be “CIMOCRACY.”

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