President, Council of Ministers, and Prime Minister

Turkey Table of Contents

The 1982 constitution vests executive authority in the president, who is the designated head of state. The president ensures implementation of the constitution and the orderly functioning of the government (see fig. 12). The president serves a seven-year term and cannot be reelected. Under a provisional article of the constitution, General Evren, who was chair of the NSC, automatically assumed the presidency when the constitution took effect at the end of 1982. Article 102 of the constitution provides the procedures for electing subsequent presidents, who must be chosen by the National Assembly from among its members. A deputy nominated for the presidency must obtain a two-thirds majority vote of the assembly. If a two-thirds majority cannot be obtained on the first two ballots, a third ballot is held, requiring only an absolute majority of votes. If a presidential candidate fails to obtain a majority on the third ballot, a fourth and final ballot is held, the choice being between the two candidates who received the greatest number of votes on the third ballot. If this procedure fails to produce a winner, new assembly general elections must be held immediately.

When Evren's seven-year term ended in November 1989, the assembly failed to produce a two-thirds vote for any candidate on the first two ballots. Prime Minister Turgut Özal won a majority on the third ballot and became Turkey's second president under the 1982 constitution. Özal died of a heart attack in April 1993 before completing his term in office. In the subsequent assembly vote for a new president, no candidate won a two-thirds majority on the first two ballots. Süleyman Demirel, who had become prime minister in November 1991, garnered the simple majority required for the third ballot and became the country's third president since the 1980 coup.

A candidate for president must have completed secondary education and must be at least forty years old. Articles 101 and 102 of the constitution provide that a presidential candidate can be nominated from outside the membership of the National Assembly if the candidate meets the stipulated qualifications and if the nomination is presented to the assembly in the form of a written resolution that has the endorsement of at least one-fifth of the deputies. In accordance with the requirement that the president-elect terminate relations with his or her political party, both Özal and Demirel resigned as heads of their respective parties following their election to the presidency.

The 1982 constitution gives the president a stronger and more extensive role than did the 1961 constitution, under which the presidency was a largely ceremonial office. The president is empowered to summon meetings of the National Assembly, promulgate laws, and ratify international treaties. The president also may veto legislation passed by the National Assembly, submit constitutional amendments proposed by the assembly to popular referenda, and challenge the constitutionality of assembly laws and cabinet decrees. The president's responsibilities include appointing the prime minister, convening and presiding over meetings of the Council of Ministers, and calling for new elections to the National Assembly. The president also is authorized to dispatch the Turkish armed forces for domestic or foreign military missions and to declare martial law.

The constitution also provides the president with appointive powers that he or she may exercise independently of the Council of Ministers. For example, the president is empowered to appoint the members of the Constitutional Court, one-quarter of the members of the Council of State, all diplomatic representatives, the chief of the General Staff, members of the Supreme Military Administrative Court, the Supreme Council of Judges and Public Prosecutors, the State Supervisory Council, the Council of Higher Education, and all university presidents.

The president may be impeached for high treason at the recommendation of one-third of the members of the National Assembly and removed from office by the vote of a three-quarters majority. Otherwise, Article 105 of the constitution stipulates that "no appeal shall be made to any legal authority, including the Constitutional Court, against the decisions and orders signed by the president of the Republic on his own initiative." The constitution also provides for the establishment of a State Supervisory Council to conduct investigations and inspections of public organizations at the president's request.

The president presides over the National Security Council, a body that contains civilian as well as military members. It should not be confused with the former NSC, an all-military body, which ruled the country following the1980 coup and subsequently became the advisory Presidential Council. The present National Security Council is composed of the prime minister, the chief of the General Staff, the ministers of national defense, interior, and foreign affairs, and the commanders of the branches of the armed forces and the gendarmerie. This body sets national security policy and coordinates all activities related to mobilization and defense. An advisory Presidential Council, composed of the armed forces commanders who had joined Evren in the 1980 military coup and the military government that lasted until 1983, continued to advise the president until 1989. At that time, in accordance with the provisional articles appended to the 1982 constitution, the Presidential Council was dissolved (see Political Developments since the 1980 Coup, this ch.).

The Council of Ministers, or cabinet, is headed by the prime minister, who is appointed by the president from among the elected deputies of the National Assembly. In practice, the president asks the head of the party with the largest number of deputies to form a government. The prime minister then nominates ministers for appointment by the president. Within one week of being selected, each new cabinet must be presented to the full assembly for a vote of confidence; a simple majority is required. If at any time during the Council of Ministers' tenure an absolute majority of the assembly should support a motion of no confidence, the ministers must resign. In the event that no party obtains a majority in National Assembly elections, a coalition of parties is allowed up to six weeks to form a government. If no new cabinet can be formed within forty-five days, the president may dissolve the assembly and call for new elections.

The prime minister supervises the implementation of government policy. Members of the Council of Ministers have joint and equal responsibility for the implementation of this policy. In addition, each minister is responsible for the conduct of affairs under his or her jurisdiction and for the actions of subordinates. In early 1995, the prime minister was Tansu Çiller, the first woman to hold this office. Her cabinet consists of a deputy prime minister and the following ministers: agriculture and rural affairs, communications and transport, culture, education, energy and natural resources, environment, finance, foreign affairs, forestry, health, industry and trade, interior, justice, labor, national defense, public works and housing, and tourism. Çiller's Council of Ministers also includes a number of ministers of state with cabinet rank.

In the area of national defense, the Council of Ministers is responsible to the assembly for national security and for the readiness of the armed forces. However, the president normally serves as commander in chief of the armed forces. With the president as chair, the cabinet is empowered to declare martial law or a state of emergency and to issue decrees without restriction during such periods.

The 1982 constitution strengthens the role of the Council of Ministers vis-à-vis the National Assembly by empowering the cabinet to issue regulations pertaining to the implementation of laws. However, the cabinet also is weakened in terms of its relationship to the president. The constitution grants the president the right to dismiss any minister upon the suggestion of the prime minister. In effect, individual ministers are subject to removal at the discretion of either the president or the prime minister.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress