In a fresh effort to reverse Turkey’s authoritarian trajectory, six opposition parties have issued a declaration that aims to rewrite the constitution and rehabilitate the country’s democratic institutions. The document represents a framework around which the group is hoping to form a united front against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the 2023 election—and a roadmap for Turkey’s post-Erdoğan transition to democracy.
The parties behind the declaration are the center-left Republican People’s Party (CHP) and five right-wing parties: the Good Party (IP), the Felicity Party (SP), the Democratic Party (DP), the Future Party (GP), and the Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA). The six parties appeal to very different constituencies in Turkey, but they share a strong opposition to Erdoğan and, in particular, to the “executive presidency” that he introduced in 2017. This system consolidated state powers and decision-making in the presidency, subduing the parliament and eroding judicial independence. Pointing to this one-man regime as the ultimate source of Turkey’s ills, including the ongoing economic catastrophe, the six parties have been working to articulate an alternative system that restores the separation of powers. They are hoping to rally the electorate behind this idea—and against Erdoğan—by next summer, when Turkey is scheduled to hold parliamentary and presidential elections. After intensive closed-door negotiations since October and a summit on February 13, the parties finally revealed the contours of their envisioned system at a momentous conference in Ankara on February 28, with hundreds in attendance and standing ovations.
The parties call their vision a “strengthened parliamentary system,” a name designed to differentiate it from not only Erdoğan’s presidential system but also the parliamentary system that he replaced, which had its own democratic shortcomings. Indeed, the 48-page declaration makes many recommendations that address decades-old issues facing Turkey’s democracy. These include lowering the 10 percent nationwide election threshold (the world’s highest) to three percent and better aligning Turkey’s laws on political parties with Council of Europe standards.
Perhaps most important, the proposal addresses key problems that have emerged more recently under Erdoğan’s rule and that pose the greatest threats to democracy and human rights in Turkey today. The document vows, for example, to end the government’s ability to replace elected mayors with hand-picked “trustees”—an anti-democratic practice that has become a habit of Erdoğan’s government in recent years to undermine opposition mayors. The proposal also promises to ratify international treaties defending women’s rights, a clear reference to Erdoğan’s scandalous decision last year to abruptly withdraw Turkey from the Istanbul Convention, the most important European treaty to combat gender-based violence. Regarding media freedoms, the plan proposes to restructure Turkey’s state-owned news agencies, TRT and Anadolu Agency, which have turned into propaganda outlets under Erdoğan’s rule, and to ensure the independence of Turkey’s official media watchdog, RTÜK, which has become an engine of censorship over the last decade.
For its authors, the “strengthened parliamentary system” represents a long-term strategy. The proposal will take years to actually implement: Even if the parties manage to secure a parliamentary majority in next year’s election, they will still need the support of lawmakers from other parties to enact the constitutional changes or to put them up for a public referendum. The six parties intend for this model to serve as a basis for negotiating a democratic transition post-Erdoğan. In the meantime, they seek to use this vision as a rallying point to strengthen their alliance, to expand their collective voter outreach, and to ultimately oust Erdoğan from office after nearly 20 years in power.
Photo Credit: CHP