‘The leaders at the Six Party Table will have the same signing authority as the President.’ said Gelecek (Future) Party leader Ahmet Davutoğlu last week. The statement was very controversial.
Claiming that if the candidate of the Six Party Table is elected president and acts against the will of the general presidents, a ‘crisis’ will arise and re-elections will be held, Davutoğlu said, ‘If I am at that table, I will have the right to speak.’. The former prime minister announced that the leaders will be vice-presidents, each party at the table will receive a ministry, and the remaining ministries will be shared according to the votes of the parties.
Reactions were quick
It was claimed that the other parties in the Six Party Table were disturbed by the ‘a crisis would breakout’ discourse. Davutoğlu's statement that says six party leaders will be given the authority to sign on the actions of the president has also been interpreted as ‘a new tutelage system’ that will stand against a president who will be elected with the support of more than half of the voters. İYİ Party spokesperson Kürşad Zorlu made the following statement on the subject:
‘Such an evaluation has not been made under the aforementioned title in the Six Party Table. But there is one thing, in the framework I mentioned, a President will combat Turkey's deep-rooted and chronic problems. In doing so, it will act within the framework of the transition process roadmap and government program that we will probably launch on January 30th. To prepare the conditions for the President to work more healthily by putting the common mind of the Six Party Table into action there. Yes, the İYİ Party supports this, but within the framework you mentioned, we do not find an approach such as 'The President will do this because we said so, they will not do this because we told them not to' right and our nation does not find it right either.’
Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdağ said, ‘Executive power/duty cannot be delegated, a partner cannot be used, and a partnership cannot be accepted unless the Constitution is amended. Despite these clear provisions of the Constitution, the decisions or practices to be taken by the leaders of the Six Party Table would be the de facto partial abolition of the Constitution, the civil coup against the executive organ, the usurpation of the powers and duties of the President, the tying of the President's hands, feet, and mouth.’.
President Erdoğan, on the other hand, blamed the opposition on Davutoğlu's words, ‘While everyone is waiting for a candidate, it has been decided that they will rule the country with six people. My brothers, six captains sink a ship. A ship sails with a single captain. Two drivers make a car crash for sure. They invented a system that is unique in the world to switch to the parliamentary system. The president they chose would be responsible to six people at the table, not one of the two people who voted for them.’ he said.
Davutoğlu: 'No tutelage'
Making a statement again on these discussions, Davutoğlu stated that he said ‘something principled’. ‘We will never bring a president who will work under tutelage to work. They will be a strong president; but the current president cannot decide on their own. We agreed that the party leaders should be vice presidents. In other words, there is no picture saying that the party leaders will sit outside, they will be the tutelage of the President.’ he said.
Davutoğlu said that those who interpret his statements as tutelage are ‘those who surrender to the logic of the Presidential System of Government, in which only one person has all the authority with one mind’, and that a common mind will work like the old coalition periods.
Reassurance to conservatives?
The Six Party Table claims to defeat the authoritarian Cumhur Alliance by bringing together social democrats, nationalists, centre-rightists, and conservatives who stand for democracy. In order to realise this claim, it feels the obligation to arouse confidence in all these social segments.
In line with this goal, it is of great importance to overcome the distrust of the conservatives towards the CHP from years ago and to believe that the Six Party Table will provide Turkey with a healthy transition period. The way to accelerate the disintegration in the Cumhur Alliance and to convince the indecisive conservatives passes through this. The CHP administration, who is aware of this, also draws attention to the discourse of saying goodbye, its self-criticism about the past of the party and its attempts to provide legal guarantee for the headscarf.
Therefore, it is possible to interpret Davutoğlu's words as a guarantee to conservatives that the joint Presidential candidate of the opposition will not follow policies other than the promises made today after the election. Davutoğlu is striving to create a base made up of former AK Party voters with the excitement of not being able to catch the exit he hoped for in the polls.
On the other hand, Davutoğlu's words reveal two main problems that the Six Party Table is facing.
The 2023 election turns into a referendum on Turkey's administrative system. Although some think that if the AK Party loses the election, it will take a stand in favour of not continuing the current system, but it is a big risk for the opposition parties to prepare for the elections by relying on this.
For the Strengthened Parliamentary System, which is the biggest common promise of the opposition, to come into effect, it needs to reach a majority in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey that will change the constitution, or at least take the constitutional amendment proposal to a referendum.
Whether this majority will be achieved, how the system change calendar will work, and what kind of policies the next President will follow before the system change, despite all the policy sets announced by the Six Party Table, creates uncertainty in the minds of the vast majority of the people for now. It does not seem possible to resolve this uncertainty without the joint government program expected to be announced in February, the roadmap for the transition and the presidential candidate. Even if they are not satisfied with the stability and every step of the government, it is not possible to convince the voters, who are likely to support the predictability of the system, to a change full of uncertainties.
The emphasis on ‘a crisis will arise’ in Davutoğlu's statements, while trying to reassure conservatives, magnifies this uncertainty, brings to mind bad scenarios and harms the efforts of the opposition, which is currently struggling to increase its votes. It increases the recipients of the ruling party's communication strategy, which underlines doubts about the opposition's ability to manage and disagreements among themselves.
Ensuring fairness in representation
The Six Party Table, while promising to form a coalition of a size that is rare in the history of world democracy, also creates confusion about how it will provide justice in representation. Of course, every party sitting at the table has to contribute to the government program and is expected. However, an administration in which the parties have an equal voice regardless of their vote share, that is, their response in the public, also brings with it the danger of violating the principle of fairness in representation.
The fact that the CHP and İYİ Party, which are likely to receive the support of more than 40% of the voters, will not be able to decide on any policy without the signatures of the parties, which are expected to remain in single digits, not only undermines justice in representation, but also has the possibility of lowering the motivation of party organisations and voters.
In order to increase the chances of success, the Six Party Table should eliminate the question marks about uncertainty, detail how it will ensure fairness in representation, and ensure social consensus by starting a joint communication campaign in which it explains what and how it will do in a language that everyone can understand, without wasting any more time, and by announcing its candidate. In today's environment, every day that passes harms the opposition, highlights the rivalry between the opposition parties and reduces the possibility of total change.