Erdogan Cabinet to Bypass Parliament to Expand His Powers

(Bloomberg) -- Recep Tayyip Erdogan is taking action to expand his presidential powers by decree, before a new parliament is elected next month.

A bill submitted to parliament late Tuesday would empower the cabinet to issue decrees with the force of law until the next president is sworn in after the June 24 vote. Erdogan’s ruling AK Party and nationalist ally MHP have enough votes in parliament to pass the legislation, which would let him push measures through without time-consuming votes -- and eliminate the risk they’ll be left to a less sympathetic new parliament.

The most pivotal election in modern Turkish history will mark the abolition of the premiership and the coronation of the presidency as the nexus of political power. Turkey must amend hundreds of existing laws to complete the transformation of the political system, whose outlines were approved in a referendum a year ago. The opposition claims Erdogan wants to rush those amendments through by decree because he’s worried his ruling AK party will lose its parliamentary majority.

“The bill is aimed at seizing parliament’s power,” Ozgur Ozel, the parliamentary whip of the main opposition party, CHP, said by phone on Wednesday. “We’re facing a constitutional and political disgrace.”

The government wants to amend nearly 2,000 articles in 876 laws before the June vote, AK Party whip Mustafa Elitas said by phone on Wednesday. The AK party denied opposition claims that it is motivated by fears of an electoral loss. While Erdogan is seen as the favored candidate to win the presidency, his party and its nationalist ally will face an alliance of four opposition parties in the parliamentary vote.

“They are dreaming. June 24 will be the day that the dream will turn to a nightmare,” Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said in Ankara on Wednesday.

‘Routine Practice’

The government’s request to authorize cabinet decrees “is a routine practice employed before every election until the new parliament resumes lawmaking,” said Bulent Turan, a parliamentary whip for AK Party.

Parliament was required by law to make the amendments within six months of the April 2017 referendum, said Ibrahim Kaboglu, a professor of constitutional law running for parliament on CHP’s ticket.

“Doing the job now with decrees that carry the force of law is against several articles of the constitution,” Kaboglu said by email on Wednesday.

Erdogan has been governing the country with decrees that carry the force of law, bypassing parliamentary and judicial oversight, under emergency rule declared after a failed coup attempt in 2016. Those decree powers do not extend to amending laws on Turkey’s governing system.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.