Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu announced AK Party's election manifesto in a grandiose ceremony the other day. A quick look at the manifesto indicates that Sheikh Edebali's –a prominent Turkish Sufi Sheikh, who provided assistance for shaping and developing the policies of the emerging Ottoman State- philosophy of “Let the people flourish, and the state will also flourish” was permeated throughout the piece. Others may not have looked at the election manifesto from this perspective before, but I should note that this piece is quite “literary” compared to the other average pieces.
Another thing that needs to be said about the manifesto as a whole is that the text is almost negating on every single aspect about Old Turkey. From the combination of tradition and modernism in the same pot, almost all sections, including careful and embracing rhetoric about equal citizenship, emphasis on justice, democracy, the sensitive balance regarding freedom and security, are in some way associated with the people. Even the success of development is measured by its degree of being people-oriented. The bottom line is that the AK Party's election manifesto for the June 7 general elections looks like a societal agreement proposal where the government sides with the people before the state, unlike Old Turkey.
Contrary to some remarks, the new constitution and the presidential system are some of the fundamental factors making up the manifesto.
Media outlets had been speculating for a while now that Davutoğlu would stand aloof from the idea of a presidential system, as it would mean an end to his tenure after a period of time. However, even those who follow him from a distance can easily see that principles trump his career. The issue of principles is abundantly present in the manifesto, anyway.
However, it is evident that the elections marathon ahead of us will turn into a race between the presidential system and the maneuvers of “not allowing a presidential system”, in the words of HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş.
Regardless of how much the AK Party staff say that they have other arguments and projects to explain to the electorate, it is already evident that the June 7 elections will in reality approve or disapprove of the presidential system. This is also the mutual perception shared by the society and what the opposition strives for.
They say people are hostile to that which they are not aware of. In reality, this doctrine is valid for societies too. Nobody will want to prefer the unknown. Only careless adventurers run after the unknown. And I think “careless” would be the last word that can be used to define the Turkish society.
On top of that, the implementation of presidential and semi-presidential systems varies significantly in each country. This means, the electorate will not know about the presidential system and will also have no clue about how the imagined presidential system would work in Turkey.
Which model is the presidential system suggested by AK Party close to? Is it the system in the U.S., Mexico, Brazil or France? What will be the duties, prerogatives, and limits of the president? Through which institutions will checks and balances be implemented? What will the function of the parliament be? Which democratic functions will the presidential system have that the parliamentarian system lacked? More importantly, will this mean “parting into provinces” which is perceived as “partition?”
What the AK Party cadres need to do is outline the details of the presidential system and convey it to millions of people who will convene in public squares, in a way that will leave no question marks behind.
In the manifesto, the section pertaining to the presidential system –which Davutoğlu says was prepared by him in person- was based upon the preambles of “putting an end to confusion on authority” and “the facilitation of accountability in real terms;” while its limits were outlined as “constitutional framework,” “separation of the legislative and executive,” “existence of control and balance mechanisms,” “ensuring the representation of societal differences.”
However, it is necessary to materialize and thoroughly explain these articles and elaborate on the details. The elections are focused on the presidential system and both the AK Party's and Ahmet Davutoğlu's success seem to depend on the correct and proper explanation of the system.