De facto defect: Erdogan’s Latest Attempt at Dictatorship

President Erdogan, Turkey’s first elected President chafes at being a symbolic representative of the state, non-partisan, ready to open a bridge or salute a parade and he’s done all he could to flout the constitution at his role by literally building a castle for himself with a cabinet room, making partisan speeches, denying the number two party the opportunity to form a government after his party failed to do so and once again demanding that the government update the constitution to justify the “de facto” power he has seized. He wants to alter the office of President from one that is symbolic to one that has far more power than presidents in democratic nations, centralized and undivided power similar to Putin’s Russia but with an Islamist bent. Opposition CHP leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, is reported in Today’s Zaman as saying:

The major feature of a coup maker is that they stage a coup and then try to establish the legal basis for their coups. Now, Erdoğan says ‘I staged this coup. It is now time to construct its legal basis.' There is still a Constitution. There has been no change. Everyone has to obey the Constitution. However, the president says the Constitution has been changed virtually. The person saying this is the one who swore on his honor and his life that he would be loyal to the Constitution [in his presidential oath].”

For anyone uncertain of Erdogan’s push for dictatorial power it is good to remember his tattered alliances. When President Abdullah Gül wanted to be a moderating voice in the party he founded, he found he was sidelined and now allowed to stand in the last election in the party for Prime Minister. When the Gülen movement which had been in lockstep with the AK party during elections and in persecuting the Turkish Military for coup claims that proved to be false and complicit in getting opposition journalists jailed now finds itself the subject of a witch hunt with the government attempting to close Gülen’s schools, get Gülen extradited from the US and they have the editor in chief of Zaman. The last election was seen as a referendum on the Erdogan bid for a dictator like President, the Kurdish HDP party broke with Erdogan’s AK party at that election over the issue of a new presidential system and many voters defected to the HDP denying the AK party the power to rewrite the constitution without opposition cooperation. Erdogan’s response was to end the peace talks with the Kurds and begin attacking them in Syria in order to sideline the HDP party which is still calling for non-violence on both sides and for the PKK to disarm.
In Erdogan’s hometown of Rize, famous for its tea and oblivious support for the President, would be dictator made his announcement that the constitution must bend to his will or as Mustafa Akyol made light of the concept in Al Monitor:

In other words, the European-style parliamentary system enacted by the Turkish Constitution was no longer valid because Erdogan had “de facto power” that overrode the constitution. So a new constitution had to be crafted as soon as possible to reconcile the de facto reality with the nation’s charter. The president was not made for the constitution; rather the constitution must be made for the president.

The problem with Turkey is that despite a foolish renewed war with the Kurds when a Kurdish alliance would protect Turkey, a time when the Turkish economy is declining, a time when a figure head president is successfully preventing coalition government and making the Prime Minister a secondary figure, there is little that may prevent Erdogan’s power grab because Turks generally see their President either as a problem, a solution but never a danger and until the danger is recognized by the public, Turkish democracy will remain in danger.