Turkish President Further Consolidates Power with Classroom Discussion Questions

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”3839″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”3837″ img_size=”medium” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davuto?lu announced his resignation on Thursday, May 6th. Davuto?lu’s resignation is the most recent in a string of concerted efforts by President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an to consolidate power in the Turkish presidency. Various internal and external factors, such as security threats from the PKK and ISIS, a refugee crisis from the Syrian civil war, and an increasingly complicated bid for European Union membership, have caused strain between the two heads of government.

Erdo?an chose Davuto?lu to serve as prime minister after he was elected to the presidency in 2014. Turkey’s constitution labels the prime minister as the most powerful government official, with the president acting as a ceremonial figure. Contrary to this model, it was widely expected that Prime Minister Davuto?lu would play a backseat role to President Erdo?an, allowing him to wield the majority of power while grooming Davuto?lu to serve as his successor. However, Davuto?lu challenged Erdo?an on a number of issues, and insisted that he never intended to be a caretaker prime minister. Davuto?lu has long been opposed to Erdo?an’s desire to rewrite the constitution to establish an executive presidency. Davuto?lu has also expressed a willingness to end the Turkish offensive against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which the West labels as a terrorist group. Erdo?an fears an aggressive Kurdish movement and wishes to thwart any efforts towards an eventual Kurdish state on Turkey’s border. They also differ on monetary policy, with Davuto?lu favoring an independent central bank, while Erdo?an wants to intervene for lower interest rates.

Davuto?lu’s departure is likely to bring about a marked change in Turkey’s relationship with its Western partners. When Erdo?an first came to power in 2003 as the prime minister of Turkey, he was embraced by the West as a true Islamist reformer, who would show the world how Islam and democracy could coexist. In 2014 Erdo?an transitioned into the presidency, naming Davuto?lu as the new prime minister. However, from the beginning of his presidency there was no doubt that he intended to retain his former governmental powers. This retention of powers, combined with Erdo?an’s disregard for democratic policies made the West increasingly wary of his presidency. Turkey’s NATO allies often favored Davuto?lu over Erdo?an, viewing him as a more moderate and reasonable negotiator. Erdo?an has continued to flout western public opinion by cracking down on dissent, quashing protests and seizing independent newspapers.

The increased power of Erdo?an’s presidency was reflected most strongly in Davuto?lu’s parting words as prime minister, “No-one heard, or will ever hear, a single word from my mouth, from my tongue or my mind against our president.” President Erdo?an is likely to replace Davuto?lu with a prime minister who aligns himself more strongly with Erdo?an’s autocratic goals.

 

Discussion Questions:

  • Compare Turkey’s secular parliamentary representative democratic republic, in which the prime minister is the head of government and the president plays a largely ceremonial role, to that of the United States.
    • How are they similar? How are they different?
    • Could the Vice Presidency of the United States be compared to the Presidency of Turkey?
    • What are the benefits of having a president and a prime minister? What are the drawbacks?
    • What would this system of government look like if the United States adopted it?
  • The Russian federation has a similar style of government, in which the president (Vladimir Putin) is the head of state and supreme commander-in-chief, while the prime minister (Dmitri Medvedev) is the second most powerful and is subservient to the President.
    • Compare these roles with Turkey’s style of government.
  • Vladimir Putin served as president for two terms, and because the Russian constitution has a two-term presidential limit, he appointed Dmitri Medvedev to the Presidency after his reign in 2008. During Medvedev’s presidency, presidential terms were expanded from four to six years, allowing Putin to run for a third term as president. He won, securing his political supremacy, and Medvedev became prime minister.
    • Compare this power play to what Erdo?an achieved with Davuto?lu’s resignation. How are the two similar? How are they different?
    • Compare Erdo?an’s relationship with the West with Putin’s. What are the long term and short term effects of this type of authoritarian governance? How does it conflict with a democratic system of governance?

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