Turkish opposition leaders sign joint proposal for strengthened parliamentary system

Leaders of six opposition parties on Feb. 28 signed the joint proposal "Strengthened Parliamentary System" in which they vowed to restore rule of law, democracy and judicial independence in Turkey should they come to power in the June 2023 elections.

Duvar English

The leaders of six opposition parties on Feb. 28 signed the joint proposal of "Strengthened Parliamentary System" to slash presidential powers and strengthen the role of parliament if they win the next election.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, center-right İYİ (Good) Party leader Meral Akşener, Islamist Felicity (Saadet) Party leader Temel Karamollaoğlu, Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) leader Ali Babacan, Future (Gelecek) Party leader Ahmet Davutoğlu, and Democratic Party leader Gültekin Uysal signed the proposal. 

The proposal explains the actions of the parties in the transition period if President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) lose the upcoming elections.

Deputy leaders of each party read the proposal during the event.

CHP deputy leader Muharrem Erkek said that these six political parties came together for a "historical plan" aiming to overhaul the existing executive-parliamentary system which came into force in 2018. 

“The presidential government system led to individuality and arbitrariness in management. It created an authoritarian government by giving the President very broad and uncontrolled powers that enable him to control the legislative, executive and judiciary. We oppose this system, which is contrary to the understanding of the constitutional state, undermines the democratic state of law, and personalizes sovereignty. The parliament is dysfunctional under the current system,” Erkek said.

He said that Turkey’s current economic and political crisis can be only overcome with a new system that will secure the rule of law, separation of powers and fundamental rights and freedoms.

"This system is a libertarian system in which ideas are freely expressed, in which freedom of religion and conscience, freedom of the press, women's rights, children's rights and environmental rights are fully protected. This system is a pluralistic system in which all state institutions are at equal distance to all citizens without any discrimination. This system is a system based on the principles of equality, impartiality and merit in public administration,” Erkek said. 

An election threshold of three percent 

DEVA deputy leader Mustafa Yeneroğlu said that the new system aims to ensure a participatory and pluralist democracy based on the principle of separation of powers and effective balance and control mechanisms. 

“We will reduce the election threshold to three percent in order to increase the power of representation, ensure fairness in representation and pluralist democracy. In order to ensure the representation of our more than six million citizens residing abroad, we will create an overseas constituency,” Yeneroğlu said.

He emphasized that the new system aims to create a balance between the government and parliament. 

“We will organize the financing of politics in detail within the framework of the principles of transparency, auditability and transparency of election expenditures. We will require public disclosure of donations over a certain amount made to political parties and candidates during election periods. Political parties that received at least 1 percent of the votes in the most recent parliamentary elections will be entitled to benefit from Treasury aid,” Yeneroğlu said.

He further said the new system will put an end to ambiguity and arbitrariness by explicitly regulating exceptions of legislative immunity. “We will put an end to the omnibus bills that are incompatible with the essence of democracy. We accept the authority of the Council of Ministers to issue decree laws, on the condition that they are based on the law of authority and that their contents, limits and duration are clearly stated by the parliament. However, we will not allow fundamental rights and freedoms to be regulated by decrees.”

He said the President’s veto power will be regulated as well. “We will limit the President's authority in lawmaking processes to the power of repatriation, which is only a warning." 

President will be limited to one term of seven years with new system

Democratic Party deputy leader Bülent Şahinalp said that they aim to create a stable and accountable executive body. 

“In the Strengthened Parliamentary System, the executive body will be composed of the President, who is impartial and does not have political responsibility, representing the unity of the state and the nation, and the Council of Ministers. In order not to face the danger of causing weak and unstable governments in the future, the roles of Prime Minister, Ministers and the Council of Ministers will be strengthened,” Şahinalp said.

He said that the new system envisages that the President's term of office is seven years and he/she can serve only one term. “The President will be elected only for one-term, and the term of service will be seven years under the new system. The Prime Minister will be elected among deputies of the parliament. The Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers will be responsible to the parliament."

The authority to declare a state of emergency will belong to the Council of Ministers and the approval of the parliament will be needed, according to the proposal. 

Focus on judicial independence 

Future Party deputy leader Ayhan Sefer Üstün said that the new system will restore judicial independence and that the decisions of the Constitutional Court and European Court of Human Right (ECHR) will immediately be applied. The arrest measure will be used as means of "exception" and other alternatives will be considered whenever possible under the new system. 

"In the admission and promotion of judges and prosecutors, objective decisions will be taken as the basis," Üstün said. 

The new system aims to abolish the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK). 

“We will restructure the Constitutional Court for strong and effective supervision by expanding the duties and powers," Üstün said. 

Focus on individual rights and freedoms 

İYİ Party deputy leader Bahadır Erdem talked about the proposal's focus on individual rights and freedoms.

“All freedoms, including freedom of expression and the press, are guaranteed under the new system. We are determined to build a free and democratic Turkey where individuals and civil society are empowered, environmental rights and sustainability are ensured, and gender equality is established. For this purpose, fundamental rights and freedoms will be ensured for all people regardless of language, religion, sect, race, gender, political and social affiliation, and our domestic law will be made compatible with international standards. All practices that create a feeling of alienation will be eliminated,” Erdem said.

The new system aims to draft a new internet legislation that does not restrict freedom of expression or violate personal rights. "We will rearrange the legislation on the right to assembly and demonstration,” Erdem said. 

The new system aims to ensure and protect gender equality in all areas of society and life.

“Finally, we will harmonize the constitutional and legal regulations on environmental rights with international law,” Erdem said. 

Abolishment of Higher Education Council 

Lastly, Felicity Party deputy leader Bülent Kaya talked about the public administration and political ethics.

“We will uphold the principles of equality, impartiality, merit, legality and transparency in public administration. We will review the functions and activities of all public institutions and restructure them in line with the needs. We will increase the number of women administrators in public administration,” Kaya said

“Our aim is to make the principles of merit and equality prevail at all levels in public office. We will put an end to the interview practices and take the written exam results as the basis,” Kaya said.

The new system will fight corruption with new regulations and will increase the powers and responsibilities of local governments.

“We will put an end to trustee practices that ignore the right to vote and be elected in local governments. We will abolish the Council of Higher Education (YÖK), and will allow faculty members to choose the rector of their own universities. We will prepare a Political Ethics Law in order to regulate the political ethical principles that deputies, ministers, political party headquarters executives and mayors must comply with while performing their duties,” Kaya said. 

Opposition leaders continuously call for early elections amidst the economic and political crisis in Turkey, while the ruling AKP hints at no elections before its time in 2023.