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Portraits of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Selcuk on Sept. 27
Portraits of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Selcuk on Sept. 27
Nuray Mert

-OpEd-

ISTANBUL — The 2010 referendum to change Turkey's constitution to give more power to the presidency prevailed in part because of the "It Is Not Enough, But Yes" call for support. I voted "No" then. And now, as it appears that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants to hold another referendum that will give even more power to the executive, I will vote "No" again. And this time, "No" is not enough.

With a referendum due next spring to finalize the reinforced presidential system, it is necessary to begin speaking about the vote now. And speaking loudly and clearly: I vote "No!"

I do not say this because I am against an Erdogan presidency. I am opposed to a "Turkish type presidency" and it would not be any different if the leader was someone with whom I agreed on political matters.

The "Turkish type presidency," or "unitary presidency" as it is sometimes called, is the search for a system for coalescing power around a single individual. The system that Erdogan's allies have described would feature no separation of powers, no independent judiciary, no real measures to safeguard rights and freedoms. This is the issue, not Erdogan.

You can't elect a sultan

This system risks creating an authoritarian regime. Its proponents see features such as a separation of powers, checks and balances, and guarantees of individual freedom as political weakness. Their approach to democracy says: "Let us deliver our will to a strong leader and he will know what to do with it" — the rest is just chatter.

Such an executive presidency, for its supporters, is ultimately the next-best alternative since you can't elect a sultan.

This thing we call "elections" is the result of the idea of modern politics and the majority of the people. But if we are talking about an order in which the dictum of religion will prevail, its reference cannot be "the people" or "the majority of the people." And nobody yet has been able to answer the question of how the dictum of religion may be applied to politics since the determination of what is "right" in a religion cannot be assigned to the will of the majority .

The mania for rule-by-majority reduces democracy to its most primal state. Instead, a modern democracy is a system in which as many different sectors of society as possible are included within the governing mechanisms. In contrast, what we call the "will of the people" is a secular-mystic concept invented to replace the religious references of the past. It's not hard to see why the right-wing, nationalist and Islamist political culture is pushing the rule-by-majority edict further and further away — the majority of Turkey is Sunni, Muslim and Turkish.

So, to return to our main point, the executive presidential system risks sliding quickly into a modern authoritarian regime that relies on the majority as the sole reference. I say a loud and clear "No" to this prospect but I also believe that we should go the extra mile to explain to others why we say no.

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