Exclusive Interview: İsmail Çağlar – Director of SETA Institute Social Research Department

Exclusive Interview: İsmail Çağlar – Director of SETA Institute Social Research Department


Why is this referendum so important for Turkey?

After the change made in 2007 for the election of the president by the people, the situation in Turkey has become more complex. So, the need for a correction of the system is a given. This correction would occur either with the parliamentary system that would, however, operate correctly, or with the presidential system. The political authority chose the second route. The opposition may disagree but the operation of the existing system is an issue that must be raised, it must be discussed.

The government says it has achieved much over the last 15 years. But this was done with the current system. The one it wants to change. What change will the presidential system bring about?

The AKP claims that it achieved all this despite the existing system and that it could do more with a new system of governance. Lets aside the views of the political parties and see what happened in the elections on 7 June 2015. The AKP received 40% of the vote, CHP got 24%, the the MHP and HDP got 10% each. But the country was led to the polls again as a government was not formed. We had 40% for the center-right, 25% for the left and 10% for each of the extremes. This landscape could be ideal for a parliamentary system. But in Turkey it proved to be ineffective and we were led to elections. So, there is a fundamental problem.

The presidential system would eliminate this structural problem. This structural problem could be changed in the same way as in Spain or Great Britain. But the government and the MHP chose to solve it by selecting the presidential system. This option was put to a referendum.

What happens if “yes” wins and what if “no” wins?

In the case of a “no” win Turkey cannot solve its structural problem. The reform would be rejected but the problem will exist. This means that there will be an attempt for another solution. The same proposals could be corrected and be put to a referendum again or a healthier parliamentary system could be created. But, even if “no” wins the efforts for a solution will continue.

In the case of a “yes” victory – because 50% will be required to elect a president – politics will shift towards the center. All parties will try to include more voters and will soften their rhetoric. There will be no possibility of implementing policy that ignores a part of society. In this sense politics will gain much as it will drive political parties to center ground.

Because Turkey will decide whether it will change the way the country is governed. Besides what the approval of the changes will bring, Turkey will for the first time in its history make long term changes to its political system without pressure and manipulation by some centers outside politics. Turkey was a country in which every form was a creation of the military. But the referendum process is a political procedure. Therefore, whichever the result the experience is important for Turkey.

The other great significance of the referendum is its content. All those who have put aside their political concerns agree that the current way of governance does not proceed. This system that was established after the 1980 coup left gates open for military intervention in politics./IBNA