Erdogan to chair cabinet meeting in unprecedented move

This may not sound like much to us but in Turkey this is, to paraphrase Joe Biden, a big freaking deal. Why? Because the presidency in Turkey has always been more of a symbolic position. But Erdogan, who maxed out his term as Prime Minister, was recently elected to the presidency and he intends to make it known that the presidency is no longer just a symbolic position by chairing a January cabinet meeting, something normally done by only the Prime Minister.

And many in Turkey are afraid that a move like this is leading them to Erdogan becoming an all-powerful Dictator:

Erdoğan says he will preside over next Cabinet meeting, sidelining PM

TODAY’S ZAMAN – President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has put an end to the discussion as to whether he or Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu will preside over the next Cabinet meeting, saying that he will convene the meeting on Jan. 19, ratcheting up concerns of a one-man rule in Turkish politics.

Confirming the expectations that he will exercise stronger executive powers by chairing the Cabinet meeting on Monday, Erdoğan said: “We have met with Mr. Prime Minister [Ahmet Davutoğlu]. I will convene the Cabinet meeting on Jan. 19 in Beştepe [at the presidential palace dubbed Ak Saray].”

Erdoğan said he is using the executive powers given to the president by the Constitution. “The Republic of Turkey is a republic governed within a constitutional framework. It is not a random town state. We have a Constitution and the powers of the president are clearly stated in this Constitution. I have said that, as the president who was directly elected by the people, I will make full use of the powers bestowed by the Constitution,” he added.

Erdoğan, who became the first president elected by popular vote on Aug. 10, had earlier vowed to use all the powers granted by the Constitution, even though they have not been used by his predecessors. The presidency has so far been a largely symbolic post in the Turkish parliamentary system of governance, with the executive powers primarily lying with the government.

Critics say more executive powers in the hands of Erdoğan will likely intensify Turkey’s drift toward one-man rule.

While this is a big deal, it’s not the biggest deal. That comes after the June elections next year when Erodgan and the AK Party hopes to win enough seats to completely rewrite the Turkish constitution which many say will result in the AK Party gaining indefinite power.

In fact, earlier this month the HDP party in Turkey announced that it will attempt to form alliances with its own opposition parties to prevent the constitution from being rewritten:

The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has said it is open to engaging in political alliances within a broad section of the political spectrum to quash the ruling party’s hopes of obtaining enough seats to re-write the constitution after the 2015 general elections.

In its final declaration the HDP said that with its organizational, political and personnel cadres, and its inclination to come together with opposition members from a wide political spectrum, it has the power to block the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) from obtaining the necessary majority to re-write the constitution by itself.

HDP’s final declaration said the party is vying to bring together wide sections of the opposition who demand justice and equality, and stand up against authoritarianism.

The declaration went on to criticize President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the AK Party for trying to remove the separation of powers, which they see as a hindrance, cropping the autonomy of certain institutions and eliminating the necessary checks and balances in the country.

The declaration states, “The AK Party’s last building block on its way to indefinite rule is to obtain the necessary majority to be able to rewrite the constitution, rising on the foundations of a presidential system.” The declaration goes on to state that the recent “security package” awaiting approval in Parliament should be assessed in this regard.

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