Turkish opposition vows return to parliamentary democracy

February 28, 2022 GMT

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — The leaders of six opposition parties in Turkey pledged on Monday to bring back parliamentary democracy and scrap the executive presidential system that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan introduced three years ago.

In a ceremony in Ankara, the parties’ leaders put their signatures on a 48-page declaration confirming their resolve to introduce a “Strengthened Parliamentary System” should they unseat Erdogan in elections currently scheduled for June 2023.

Erdogan, who has been in office since 2003 — first as prime minister and as president since 2014 — inaugurated a presidential system in 2018 that abolished the office of the prime minister and concentrated most powers in the hands of the president. The office of the president had been a largely ceremonial post until then.

The opposition has blamed Turkey’s woes, including an economic downturn and an erosion of rights and freedoms, on Erdogan’s system which they say amounts to a “one-man rule.” The presidential system was narrowly approved in a 2017 referendum and was installed following elections in 2018.

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The new system envisioned by the six opposition parties would revive the office of the prime minister and restore the president’s largely symbolic powers, party officials said during the ceremony. It foresees a greater separation of powers, including an increased legislative and oversight role for the parliament, and an independent judiciary. It also promises transparency and greater rights and freedoms, including women’s rights.

The declaration was signed by Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the head of the main opposition Republican People’s Party; Meral Aksener from the nationalist Good Party; Temel Karamollaoglu from the conservative Felicity Party; Gultekin Uysal from the Democrat Party; Democracy and Progress Party’s Ali Babacan; and Future Party’s Ahmet Davutoglu.

Davutoglu and Babacan were co-founders of Erdogan’s ruling party and served in top positions before breaking away from the movement in criticism of Erdogan’s policies.

Turkey’s second largest opposition party, the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, was excluded from the declaration. The government accuses the party of links to outlawed Kurdish militants and many of its members, including its former leaders, have been imprisoned. Erdogan has in the past accused the Republican People’s Party of siding with “terrorists.”