Erdogan seeks public discussion on presidential system



Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has proposed broad-based public participation in deciding on a new constitution and Turkey’s potential shift to a presidential system.

His remarks on Thursday came amid Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s ongoing talks with the opposition parties over drafting a new constitution to replace the current one that dates back to the Sept. 12, 1980 coup d’etat.

“A search conference will help lay the groundwork towards drafting a constitution on which a full societal agreement can be reached,” he told a press conference at Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport upon returning from his Saudi Arabia visit.

Erdogan described the “search conference” as “a kind of public survey” that could involve Turkish citizens on a large scale, proposing “not small numbers like 500,000, but by increasing the numbers much further”.

In a 1995 article, Robert Rehm and Nancy Cebula define the search conference as a “participative planning method that enables people to create a plan for the most desirable future of their community or organization, a plan they take responsibility for carrying out themselves”. They add that the term was first used in 1959 by Fred Emery and Eric Trist, who introduced it to merge two aircraft engine manufacturers in Great Britain.

“The issue is to avoid having a presidential system that has a structure or character that will cause practical annoyances for the public. As long as you uphold justice in practice — that’s what the people seek and expect — there will be no problem,” Erdogan said.

The president stressed that he himself would chair meetings with various circles in society — including the academia and the media — at the presidential complex to listen to their opinions.

Erdogan said most of the developed countries have a presidential or semi-presidential system.

“I believe we can take much stronger steps once Turkey has shifted to such a system,” he added. “We are in search of the better.”