Professor Suheyl Batum: “Constitutional amendment will turn Turkey into a dictatorship”

In an exclusive interview with JerusalemOnline that was coordinated with Turkish dissident Rafael Sadi, Professor Suheyl Batum, one of the most prominent experts on constitutional law in Turkey, explained why Turkish citizens should oppose the constitutional amendment.
Photo Credit: Reuters/Channel 2 News

In an exclusive interview with JerusalemOnline that was coordinated with Turkish dissident Rafael Sadi, Professor Suheyl Batum, one of the most prominent experts on constitutional law in Turkey, explained why he is presently running a very active campaign opposing the amendment to the Turkish Constitution ahead of the referendum vote.  According to Sadi, Batum has traveled across 65 Turkish cities explaining to the Turkish people why the fate of their country depends upon a “no” vote in the referendum. Batum emphasized that the constitutional changes being promoted by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will transform Turkey into a dictatorship: “This proposed constitutional amendment will reverse Turkish democratic traditions and bring the country back to the authoritarian rule witnessed prior to the Tanzimat Era.”

According to numerous commentators, Erdogan wants Turkey to have a presidential system in order to increase the power of the presidency. They claim that this is the reason supposedly why there is presently a referendum vote. Erdogan and his supporters argue that the system that they want to adopt is similar to the American model of governance. However, critics argue that the presidential system that Erdogan seeks is missing something crucial that is necessary to preserve Turkey’s democracy the day after the referendum vote: a balance of powers.  The Declaration of 1789 asserted that a nation that does not have a balance of powers does not really have a constitution.

Batum stressed that the lack of a balance of powers makes the proposed amendment anti-democratic for all democracies have checks and balances: “This draft will clearly and unequivocally unify the three separate branches of government. The President as party leader will be able to hold legislative power through the members of parliament who are appointed by the President himself. The President personally as leader of executive branch will be able to hold executive power. The President at the same time will be able to hold judicial power as the single appointor of members of the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors.”

“You will elect a President of the Republic in the morning, who will attend to the caucus of his party and take some decisions later on,” Batum explained. “He will determine the list concerning candidates of deputies to the parliament and afterwards, he will appoint the civil servants. In the afternoon, he will draft presidential decrees and right afterwards, he, himself, will inspect, approve and enact these decrees. The President will appoint 12 out of the 15 members of the Constitutional Court. This kind of authority doesn’t exist in the USA as claimed by the ruling party. It doesn’t exist in any democratic country either.  This situation clearly shows that the amendment will endow a single person with absolute power.”

According to Batum, if Erdogan succeeds with the referendum, Turkey’s Parliament will be reduced to being “a mere figurehead, a nominal institution where deputies to the parliament will go up and down at behest of the president.” He claimed that if the constitutional amendment is passed, all of Turkey will be ruled via presidential degrees and this will affect every aspect of Turkish life: “The President will have the power to amend articles regarding social and economic rights present in the constitution via presidential decrees. Let’s think about it. The right to education will be regulated through presidential decrees without needing to amend the law.” Batum believes these issues are compounded and made worse by the fact that the judicial review of the presidential decrees is restricted under the new constitution and it will be significantly more difficult to hold the Turkish leadership accountable for any crimes that they may commit.

“No right should give the representatives of a nation the freedom to abolish the democracy,” Batum declared. “However, the politicians who drafted this amendment turn a blind eye to democracy and extinguish the Turkish constitutional struggle that has been ongoing for more than 200 years. Abolishing the separation of powers implied in the Declaration of 1789, these politicians are turning the country into a ‘nondemocratic country which doesn’t have a constitution at all’ while also abrogating 150-year-old Turkish constitutional principles and the requirement for the executive power to be exercised in conformity with the law.”

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