EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, undoubtedly the most popular and divisive leader in modern Turkish history, has already ruled the country longer than Atatürk, the founder of modern, secular Turkey. By 2023, when his presidential term expires, Erdoğan will have ruled Turkey for 21 years compared to Atatürk’s 15. It may sound like a joke, but the Turkish president, among other duties, will now have the authority to set pharmaceuticals prices and traffic fines for motorists driving without winter tires on snowy roads.
Zaytung, a popular Turkish humor website that publishes “news” with the dictum “Honest, Unbiased, Immoral News,” recently ran a story with this headline: “Presidential system influences Fenerbahçe” (a popular Turkish football club). The piece said that the latest presidential decree signed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan dictates that Fenerbahçe should now appear on the pitch with one defensive midfielder instead of two.
Erdoğan has dominated Turkey for more than 15 years, but to him, this is not enough. After he comfortably won a presidential race on June 24, he quickly transformed Turkey’s parliamentary system into an executive presidential system with almost no checks and balances. He had won that authority in a referendum in April 2017, but his new powers would only take effect after the first presidential election.