WASHINGTON, D.C. – Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan currently wields significant power but “no accountability,” claiming that the upcoming April 16 referendum is designed to change that, during a sit-down interview with Breitbart News at the National Press Club in D.C. on Tuesday.
“The current constitution gives a lot of powers to the president, but without any accountability and any responsibility, and no judicial supervision,” Çavuşoğlu said. He stated that the referendum would both place greater responsibility on the president while increasing the power of Parliament. He also claimed that “the president will be [held] accountable” and that he will be vested with a large amount of responsibility should the referendum pass. “The power will go to the people, not anybody else,” Çavuşoğlu said.
He argued that, currently, Turkey does not have separation of powers between the government and the parliament but that with the new system, that separation of power will be “clear.” Some have argued that the referendum consolidates power and could arguably give too much power to one person.
However, Çavuşoğlu said, “Parliament will check the power of the president,” and “the current parliament cannot check the activities or decisions of the president. But with the new system, the parliament will” be able to check President Erdoğan.
Erdoğan called upon his supporters to assert themselves last July when certain elements of the Turkish military attempted what became a failed coup against his government. “I urge the Turkish people to convene at public squares and airports,” Erdogan said over a live video streaming app and FaceTime from an undisclosed safe place in an interview with a Turkish TV network. “Let them do what they will at public squares and airports.” He added, “There is no power higher than the power of the people.”
Just eight months before the coup, Erdoğan’s party won nearly 50 percent of the vote. That popularity, particularly among Turkish millennials, and Erdoğan’s desire to maintain it may also be seen as the reason behind his government’s decision to lower the age of candidacy for a parliamentary position by seven years, from 25 to 18. The referendum will also increase the number of MPs from 550 to 600.
However, Erdoğan’s party, the AK Party, won reelection after he called for a second general election in November 2015, after his party lost its parliamentary majority for the first time in 13 years in June of that same year. Several days after the second election, Erdoğan said, “I don’t care if they call me a dictator or whatever else It goes in one ear, out the other.”
Leaders of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), a Turkish left-wing minority party allied with the Kurdish population, alleged that the November 1 election was not a “free and equal election” and had even demanded the nation’s Supreme Election Board cancel the results.
Çavuşoğlu told Breitbart News on Tuesday that the upcoming referendum is facing a different obstacle. He said some in the Western media had decided to intervene in the politics of the Turkish referendum at the EU, and that this “had very negative, for them, impact. So, our ‘yes’ vote has been increased after such involvement or intervention by media and politicians in some western countries.”
“I don’t think they are taking sides because they love Turkey [or] they are fan[s] of Muslims [or] they are thinking of the future of Turkey and the stability of Turkey,” Çavuşoğlu said. He condemned both American and international media – “the same media, in the United States and in Europe, which has left ideology” – for having “taken sides” against Erdoğan regarding the referendum.
Çavuşoğlu claimed that the enemies of Erdoğan were also the enemies of U.S. President Donald Trump and “other strong right-wing politicians.” He added, “they hate strong, right-wing governments.”
While President Erdoğan represents the Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) and promoted initiatives to introduce Islamic prayers at the Hagia Sophia and popularize the hijab, President Trump has broken with his predecessors in the Obama administration by calling “radical Islamic terrorism” by its name and implementing policies aimed at targeting Islamist terrorism, which have branded him an “Islamophobe” by many in the mainstream media.
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