The newest semi-presidential country – Turkey

Turkey has joined the list of countries with semi-presidential constitutions.

Following the Grand National Assembly’s failure to elect a president in April 2007, the ruling AKP party proposed a set of constitutional changes, one of which was the direct election of the president. The referendum to approve the changes was held in October 2007 and a large majority – nearly 69% – voted for the reforms, which also included the reduction of the president’s term from 7 to 5 years.

In the meantime, Turkey held a general election. In July 2007 the AKP was returned to power and in August 2007, following the general election but prior to the referendum, the Grand National Assembly did elect a new president, Mr Abdullah Gül, from the AKP party. There is now a debate as to whether President Gül will serve a 7-year term prior to the first direct election, or whether he will apply the new 5-year term to himself. It seems that, constitutionally, he could serve until 2014 before the first direct election.

There are some similarities between constitutional events in Turkey and equivalent events in other countries in the past. In Weimar Germany the first president was elected by parliament in February 1919. The Weimar constitution, which made reference to the direct election of the president, was formally passed in August 1919. However, the first direct election was not held until March/April 1925. This was slightly less than the original 7-year term and was the result of a constitutional law passed in October 1922. Similarly, in France the constitution was amended in 2000 to reduce the president’s term from 7 to 5 years. However, the reduction of the mandate did not apply to President Chirac’s first term (1995-2002), but only to his second (2002-2007) – the first full term after the reform had been passed.

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