This article needs to be updated. (April 2017)
The politics of Turkey take place in the framework of a presidential republic as defined by the Constitution of Turkey. The President of Turkey is both the head of state and head of government.
Turkey's political system is based on a separation of powers. Executive power is exercised by the Council of Ministers, which is appointed and headed by the President. Legislative power is vested in the Grand National Assembly. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. Its current constitution was adopted on 7 November 1982 after a constitutional referendum.
Major constitutional revisions were passed by the National Assembly on 21 January 2017 and approved by referendum on 16 April 2017. The reforms, among other measures, abolished the position of Prime Minister and designated the President as both head of state and government, effectively transforming Turkey from a parliamentary regime into a presidential one.
The Economist Intelligence Unit rated Turkey a "hybrid regime" in 2019.
The function of head of state and head of government is performed by the president (Cumhurbaşkanı). A president is elected every five years on the principle of universal suffrage according to the current constitution. The president does not have to be a member of parliament, but he/she must be over 40 years old and hold a bachelor's degree. The current president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was directly elected in the 2018 presidential election.
Executive power rests with the president and the Ministers. The Ministers can not also be a Member of the Parliament. If MPs are chosen to be a Minister, they will have to resign their positions as Members of the Parliament. The President of Turkey is the leader of the cabinet. The current holder of the position is Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of the Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Legislative power is invested in the 600-seat Grand National Assembly of Turkey (Türkiye Büyük Millet Meclisi), representing 81 provinces. The members are elected for a five-year term by mitigated proportional representation with an election threshold of 10%. To be represented in Parliament, a party must win at least 10% of the national vote in a national parliamentary election. Independent candidates may run, and to be elected, they must only win enough to get one seat.
The political system of Turkey is highly centralized. However, as a member state of the Council of Europe, Turkey is under an obligation to implement the European Charter of Local Self-Government. In its 2011 report, the Monitoring Committee of the Council of Europe found fundamental deficits in implementation, in particular administrative tutelage and prohibition of the use of languages other than Turkish in the provision of public services.
The freedom and independence of the judicial system is protected within the constitution. There is no organization, person, or institution which can interfere in the running of the courts, and the executive and legislative structures must obey the courts' decisions. The courts, which are independent in discharging their duties, must explain each ruling on the basis of the provisions of the Constitution, the laws, jurisprudence, and their personal convictions.
The Judicial system is highly structured. Turkish courts have no jury system; judges render decisions after establishing the facts in each case based on evidence presented by lawyers and prosecutors. For minor civil complaints and offenses, justices of the peace take the case. This court has a single judge. It has jurisdiction over misdemeanors and petty crimes, with penalties ranging from small fines to brief prison sentences. Three-judge courts of first instance have jurisdiction over major civil suits and serious crimes. Any conviction in a criminal case can be taken to a court of Appeals for judicial review.
Most courts are open to the public. When a case is closed to the public, the court has to declare the reason. Judge and prosecution structures are secured by the constitution. Except with their own consent, no judge or prosecutor can be dismissed, have his/her powers restricted, or be forced to retire. However, the retirement age restrictions do apply. The child courts have their own structure.
A judge can be audited for misconduct only with the Ministry of Justice's permission, in which case a special task force of justice experts and senior judges is formed.
The Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) is the principal body charged with responsibility for ensuring judicial integrity, and determines professional judges acceptance and court assignments. Minister of justice, Sadullah Ergin is the natural head of the Council according to the current constitution.
Turkey adopted a new national "Judicial Networking System" (UYAP). The court decisions and documents (case info, expert reports, etc.) will be accessible via the Internet.
Turkey accepts the European Court of Human Rights' decisions as a higher court decision, provided they do not concern the occupation of Northern Cyprus. Turkey also accepts as legally binding any decisions on international agreements.
There are several supreme courts with different subjects:
Yargıtay acts as the supreme court of judiciary tribunals (criminal and civil justice). Danıştay is the highest of administrative courts. Anayasa Mahkemesi examines the constitutionality of laws, decrees having the force of law (decret-loi), changes of parliamentary by-laws and several other acts of the parliament. Sayıştay (Court of Accounts) is the court which examines the incomes and expenses of the administrative bodies and which acts in the name of parliament. The Military Court of Cassation (Askeri Yargıtay) and The Military High Court of Administration (or the Supreme Military Administrative Court) (Askeri Yüksek İdare Mahkemesi) are the highest bodies to which appeals of decisions of military courts are to be made.
Political principles of importance in Turkey
The Turkish Constitution is cumulatively built on the following principles:
Most mainstream political parties are alternatively built either on the following principles:
Other political ideas have also influenced Turkish politics and modern history. Of particular importance are:
These principles are the continuum around which various – and often rapidly changing – political parties and groups have campaigned (and sometimes fought). On a superficial level, the importance which state officials attach to these principles and their posts can be seen in their response to breaches of protocol in official ceremonies.
Political parties and elections
Since 1950, parliamentary politics has been dominated by conservative parties. Even the ruling AKP, although its core cadres come from the Islamist current, tends to identify itself with the "tradition" of the Democratic Party (DP). The left-leaning parties, the most notable of which is the Republican People's Party (CHP), with a stable electorate, draw much of their support from big cities, coastal regions, professional middle-class, and minority groups such as Alevis.
Despite the domination of right-wing parties in the electoral field, The Turkish party system has a changing character. During the 1990s, for instance, the party system was characterized by "polarized pluralism driven by ethnic and religious conflict" which then turned into "predominant" under the AKP governments. With the intensification of the authoritarian agenda of the AKP government, the party system tends to turn into "hegemonic" in recent years.
Military involvement in politics
Since Mustafa Kemal Atatürk founded the modern secular Republic of Turkey in 1923, the Turkish military has perceived itself as the guardian of Atatürkçülük, the official state ideology. The TAF still maintains an important degree of influence over Turkish politics and the decision making process regarding issues related to Turkish national security, albeit decreased in the past decades, via the National Security Council.
The military has had a record of intervening in politics. Indeed, it assumed power for several periods in the latter half of the 20th century. It executed coups d'état in 1960, in 1971, and in 1980. Most recently, it maneuvered the removal of an Islamic-oriented prime minister, Necmettin Erbakan, in 1997.
On 27 April 2007, in advance of 4 November 2007 presidential election, and in reaction to the politics of Abdullah Gül, who has a past record of involvement in Islamist political movements and banned Islamist parties such as the Welfare Party, the army issued a statement of its interests. It said that the army is a party to "arguments" regarding secularism; that Islamism ran counter to the secular nature of the Turkish Republic, and to the legacy of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. The Army's statement ended with a clear warning that the Turkish Armed Forces stood ready to intervene if the secular nature of the Turkish Constitution is compromised, stating that "the Turkish Armed Forces maintain their sound determination to carry out their duties stemming from laws to protect the unchangeable characteristics of the Republic of Turkey. Their loyalty to this determination is absolute."
Contrary to outsider expectations, the Turkish populace is not uniformly averse to coups; many welcome the ejection of governments they perceive as unconstitutional. Members of the military must also comply with the traditions of secularism, according to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom report in 2008, members who performed prayers or had wives who wore the headscarf, have been charged with “lack of discipline”.
Paradoxically, the military has both been an important force in Turkey's continuous Westernization but at the same time also represents an obstacle for Turkey's desire to join the EU. At the same time, the military enjoys a high degree of popular legitimacy, with continuous opinion polls suggesting that the military is the state institution that the Turkish people trust the most.