Prior to the April 16, 2017 referendum on the constitutional change regarding the transition to the presidential system in Turkey, the opposition parties contested this change claiming that in the new system the parliament could be bypassed and stripped of its duties as the main law maker and auditor of the government. Among the main reasons was the fact that the President would be able to appoint ministers without any parliamentary scrutiny as well as the president acquiring the power of executive decree to enact laws.
The initial idea was that there would be a long transition period during which legislation would be passed to create the modus operandi for the new system. However, that did not happen and as a result snap elections were held on June 24, 2018, which allowed for the presidential system to enter our lives.
Since then, the opposition has continued to voice the same criticism. In fact, they are right. So far, the number of presidential decrees have surpassed the number of laws that have been enacted by the parliament. The number of draft legislation proposed by the opposition to be enacted into law is zero. The elected members of parliament have limited tools to scrutinize appointed ministers.
Most recently, an event transpired likely to be seen in scenarios of an absurd comedy piece. With the “pro” votes of MHP and AK Party MPs, the bill postponing the requirement for filtration in thermal power plants, was approved in the parliament. The decision caused an uproar in the opposition ranks but also in a large section of society. Then, something quite unexpected happened; President Erdoğan vetoed the bill. The irony is of course, that the very same law that was tabled by Mr. Erdoğan’s AK Party was vetoed by President Mr. Erdoğan himself.
The fundamental reason why President Erdoğan vetoed the bill is that (as also evident in our public opinion polling) Turkish society is unequivocally cultivating stronger reactions against issues regarding the degradation of the environment. Clearly there are other power struggles within the AK Party that contributed to the situation, however, I suspect President Erdoğan’s priority is the public’s reaction. Regardless, the absurdity of this single piece of legislation’s story is quite telling.
Whilst the opposition is criticizing the government for rendering the parliament less powerful, their turn out performance during voting of various legislation at the general assembly tell a different story. Last week at TurkiyeRaporu.com, we published our analysis of MPs turnout rate for the 38 votes that took place in the general assembly in its 27th term, that is since June 24, 2018. On average, 47% of the 589 MPs were present for voting. The highest participation rate was 83% and the lowest was 34%.
The average participation rate for AK Party and MHP (partners of the ruling coalition) was 75% and 48% respectively. Concerning CHP and İYİ Party, (partners of the opposing coalition) the rate stood at 17% and 24% respectively. Finally, the average turnout for pro-Kurdish HDP was a meagre 9%. This is where it gets interesting, if all MPs of all the opposition parties were present, 15 of the 38 votes would be in favor of the opposition. Granted, if that had been the case, the ruling coalition would gather up their MPs to tip the balance. However, this shows that if the opposition is to criticize the government for by-passing the parliament, first they need to actually show up to vote.