Presidents, the state and "democracy" in Turkey the ideas and praxis of Süleyman Demirel
İçener, Zeyneb Çağlıyan
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This study aims to analyze the “statist” role that a president in the Turkish parliamentary system may play in maintaining a viable democracy, drawing on Giovanni Sartori’s bidimensional democracy theory and Alan Siaroff’s classification based on assessments of the nature of presidents. This study firstly discusses how under certain circumstances presidents come to have more powers in Turkey. It is argued that with the 1982 Constitution the president may assume a “corrective” role, despite lacking the legitimacy of popular elections, through benefiting from the vagueness of Article 104 of the Constitution. Unlike counterparts in some other parliamentary systems, the president in Turkey is not a symbolic and passive political actor but enjoys extensive powers. Focusing on the presidential term of Süleyman Demirel, this study secondly discusses how the president’s interpretations of his power and the way he puts this into practice may have had an impact on the maintenance of a viable democracy. The study suggests that Demirel developed a political line that prioritizes the effective functioning of the state, which he sees as indispensable for democracy. This explains the incentive behind Demirel’s active role as the president in protecting the political fabric of the state, which for him is directly linked with preserving the democratic nature of the regime. Despite coming from the circles of political elites, Demirel was able to set up a dialogue with the state elites when he was president, and thus was moderately successful in achieving a balance in the chronically troubled relationship between the state elites and the political elites.