Recep Tayyip Erdogan is Turkey’s most powerful political figure, but as President rather than Prime Minister now, he has chosen an unusual method for holding onto power. The Prime Minister is supposed to run the country while the President serves as largely symbolic head of state. One option many thought he would adopt was to be the power behind the throne of his chosen successor, PM Ahmet Davutoglu, much as Vladmir Putin ran Russia from 2008 to 2012 when Dmitri Medvedev nominally held the more powerful office (in that country, President). He has not taken that approach.Instead, we have begun to see hints of ways in which Erdogan plans to transform the office of the Presidency. He has already moved out of the residence into a massive, 1,000 room “White Palace“, from which he has hosted high-profile world leaders including Vladmir Putin and the Pope, with great fanfare. Now, The Guardian reports that he is planning on chairing a Cabinet meeting—something the Turkish constitution nominally allows a President to do as head of state, but which has always been the job of the Prime Minister. We doubt that if he succeeds—and the opposition so far has been futile to stop it—it will be the only meeting he hosts.Furthermore, the head of Turkey’s highest court is raising the alarm about political interference in the judiciary, according to the Hurriyet Daily News:
“When the Court’s agenda is announced, enormous pressure is imposed on our members,” Constitutional Court President Haşim Kılıç said in an interview with daily Sözcü on Jan. 2, when asked why the Court has ceased to regularly announce its agenda on its official webpage.“Members are extremely annoyed at this situation. That’s why we have decided not to announce the issues on the Court’s agenda, in order to ease pressure on our members,” added Kılıç, the head of the 17-member court.
Kılıç made his comments in the context of a case contesting electoral reforms that the government has imposed, which some argue are designed to strangle the smaller players in Turkey’s multi-party system. Slowly, but surely—symbolically, administratively, electorally, and, it seems, judicially—Erdogan is tightening his grip.