US envoy calls on Turkey to safeguard freedoms
Ambassador John Bass said it was up to Turkish citizens to decide which system they prefer, amid considerable debate over how the country should be governed ahead of a parliamentary election in June.
“We partner with some strong presidential democracies and we partner with some strong parliamentary democracies. From our perspective the system is not the essential piece,” Bass told a group of journalists in Ankara.
“The protection of fundamental freedoms, the extent to which that system provides checks and balances that prevent any single individual or any single branch of government from exercising disproportionate influence and ability to rule without consent: those are the kinds of things we look at closely.”
Under the current system, the president plays a largely ceremonial role.
But President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who previously led the Turkish government as prime minister for 11 years, has stretched the powers of the presidency since winning it in August last year in the first ever direct vote.
The co-founder of the ruling Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP), Erdogan wants to cement his role as Turkey’s number one with a US-style executive presidency.
The AKP, which currently has 312 seats, is aiming for a significant boost in numbers in the June 7 election in order to secure more than two-thirds of the 550-seat parliament, or at least 367 votes, to change the constitution and switch to a presidential system.
Erdogan’s plans are being challenged by opposition parties in parliament who fear such a reform would hand him too much power and drag Turkey into growing authoritarianism — claims fiercely rejected by the president.