Sunday, May 2, 2010

Separating and Limiting Powers

Picking up on some of the concerns I expressed earlier about the government's failure to outline limits on its own power (see March 28 post), thereby striking a balance between majoritarian and liberalism, see constitutional theorist Andrew Arato's interview with Milliyet's Devrim Sevimay (in Turkish, and in two parts -- for Part I, click here; for Part II, click here). The interview has only strengthened a vigorous debate in the Turkish press, and whether people agree or disagree, will hopefully help bring the need to strike this balance into better frame. My hope is that it will also strengthen the discourse of the oppostion, which has largely focused its arguments in narratives of the AKP/government's plans to take control of all society. Rather than arguing ad hominem and with use of various conspiracy theories, a more valuable discourse will center on the need to consign limits to governmental power, a requirement of liberal democracy and an exigency that Prime Minister Erdogan has been remiss to adequately address. (For a two-part response to Arato from Ankara University law professor Mithat Sancar, click here (Part I) and here (Part II); for an earlier article by Arato that came amidst the AKP closure case and the Constitutional Court's decision to annul the headscarf amendments in 2008, click here.)

Discussed briefly by Arato and Sincar is Erdogan's declaration of a week ago that he is warm to the idea of a presidential system similar to that of the United States. The prime minister said that a presidential system might better facilitate a separation of powers and resolve current consitition-centered tensions. The AKP has made statements that it plans to based its 2011 election bid on a new constitution, and Erdogan has said that he would be interested in the presidency if the public seemed to demand it. The CHP firmly denounced Erdogan's statements, using them as evidence that the party is bent on ensuring its own hegemony.

UPDATE 5/8 -- From prominent, self-identified "liberal" Atilla Yayla, who is currently Vice-Chiarman of the Liberal Thought Association:
If your primary goal is to make Turkey a more liberal country, then you have to struggle within the current system. The AK Party is neither the founder of this system nor its primary protector, though it has adopted and protected some of its characteristics and practices. Of course, the AK Party should be criticized, and some of its activities should be opposed. However, this alone does not a liberal position make. Indeed, Kemalists and (neo)nationalists oppose the AK Party, but this does not make them liberals. If you base your opposition to the AK Party on the current system, and not your liberal principles, then you will become just another obscure and weak copy of the CHP or the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). But if you oppose it from a liberal perspective, then this will both make sure that your own position becomes more liberal and force it to undertake more liberal acts. The choice is yours.

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