My Turkish Friend Has A Few Questions About How America Works
Ricochet, please permit me to introduce you to my dear friend Mert, a new member of Ricochet and a student of constitutional law here in Istanbul. He's about to embark on the writing of his dissertation. He wants to write about the American presidential system. He's particularly interested in the idea of checks and balances in the US political system and the limits placed by our Constitution on the president's power.
There's an important reason for his interest. In Turkey, the ruling AKP is considering the introduction of a presidential system to replace Turkey's traditional parliamentary mode of governance.
The multifaceted momentum triggered by [last September's] heady referendum victory has turned new attention to an old idea of Turkey’s ruling party: a U.S.-style “presidential system” to replace the current European-style parliamentary mode of governance.
Just where American icons like “states’ rights,” “limited” central government and the supremacy of “local authority” will come in... those appear to be ideas for later.
At first brush, the afterglow of victory has apparently wetted Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s appetite for a different governmental architecture. The first president in the new system would, of course, be Erdoğan.
That possibility is anathema to the country’s opposition parties.
“The presidential system, according to [the ruling party’s] understanding, will bring an uncontrollable single-man administration. Judicial freedom will become even less protected,” Atilla Kart, a member of the Constitutional Commission and a Konya representative of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Tuesday.
Mert is eager better to understand better why, in America, a presidential system does not result in dictatorship. He'd like to get thoughts from members of Ricochet about fruitful ways to explore this topic--suggestions, for example, about important case studies he might examine, pointers to critical moments in American history that defined the limits of the power of the president, general thoughts about what is required, constitutionally, to ensure that such a system does not devolve into despotism.
I know many members of Ricochet have given these questions a great deal of thought. It would make me very proud to see Ricochet engaging directly with people in Turkey who are concerned to safeguard Turkish democracy. I hope you'll be generous in helping Mert to understand how America works and what lessons Turkey might profitably draw from the American experience.
Ricochet, welcome to your first adventure in foreign policy. Do good work. The stakes for Turkey are very high.
Oh, and by the way--Mert is also a terrific martial artist. If you have any martial arts questions, he's our new in-house expert.