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Turkey’s Erdogan is Sworn-In; Many Fear New Powers

By Kristina Jovanovski | The Media Line

July 11, 2018

(Photo by Stringer/Getty Images)
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New term comes as the president presses forward with purge

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been sworn into office, entering a new presidential system that gives him vast new powers.

The president now has increased power to issue decrees, fire and appoint judges, appoint senior officials including the vice president, and dissolve parliament, although that would trigger an election.

The role of prime minister is abolished, with its powers transferred to the president.

Erdogan argues eliminating the position of prime minister will avoid disagreements and make decision making quicker. He also says the new system will improve economic growth and security in a country which borders Syria and Iraq, and faced a 2016 coup attempt.

“We are leaving behind the system that has in the past cost our country a heavy price in political and economic chaos,” Erdogan told guests Monday evening, Reuters reported.

Ankara MP Gamze Tascier for the main opposition party CHP wrote in a statement to The Media Line that political power is now solely with Erdogan.

“The biggest problem that the new system will create is that the separation of powers principle has completely disappeared. The legislature, the executive and the judiciary are under the authority of one single person.”

The new system was approved in a contentious referendum last year with 51.4 percent voting in favor of the reforms, which are the most significant changes to the political system in modern day Turkey.

The country has been under a state of emergency for almost two years since the failed 2016 coup, but Erdogan said he would end it after the election.

Under the new system, a state of emergency lasts for six months instead of three and Erdogan can declare one without needing the approval of parliament.

That change takes away one of the last checks on the president’s power, Duke University professor of economics and political science Timur Kuran told The Media Line.

“All checks and balances are now gone. The only thing that can stop him from trying to control everything in society is the domestic markets and the global markets.”

Kuran said that those markets would react badly if Erdogan went too far in his overreach of government.

“The economy will tank, that’s the only thing that can restrain the degree of repression.”

After Erdogan took the oath of office, he announced his cabinet, which includes his son-in-law Berat Albayrak as the finance minister and excludes former deputy prime minister Mehmet Simsek, seen as having the confidence of foreign investors.

Kuran believes the appointment of Albayrak is a signal that Erdogan wants to increase control of the economy.

“The central bank will not have independence, there will be no restraints on the president in determining the budget [and] spending priorities,” said Kuran.

Following the announcement, Turkey’s lira dropped 3 percent. The currency has nosedived this year and inflation reached its highest level in more than a decade last month.

Erdogan won another five years in office in the June 24 election with 52% of the vote to continue his 15 years in power. His supporters see him as responsible for putting Islamic values at the center of Turkish society, which had previously banned the wearing of headscarves in state institutions, such as universities.

Erdogan has touted the large infrastructure projects he’s overseen across the country and the economic growth that occurred under his governance.

In an email to The Media Line, Bipartisan Policy Center senior policy analyst Nicholas Danforth said Erdogan is likely hoping the new system will now make Western countries acknowledge he is here to say and encourage them to work with the Turkish president.

“But amidst a host of bilateral issues, mismatched expectations and mounting mutual anger in Turkey and Washington, a lasting reset will prove hard to pull off,” Danforth warned.

Among the obstacles between the two NATO allies is the imprisonment of U.S. citizens in Turkey, including pastor Andrew Brunson who is currently on trial on terrorism charges. Sixty-six senators signed a letter to Erdogan warning measures against Turkey could be taken if U.S. citizens did not get fair treatment.

However, the U.S. went ahead with a shipment of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey last month. Turkey also signed a deal to purchase a missile defense system from Russia, raising serious concerns from Washington.

Foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who kept his position in the new cabinet, said he wanted Turkey to continue its bid to join the European Union, Hurriyet Daily News reported on Tuesday.

“By uniting our forces, we are planning to make progress in the EU process despite all difficulties,” he said.

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