President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his wife Emine Erdogan Kayhan Ozer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Erdoğan the Magnificent

With his reelection as president under a new constitution, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has become Turkey’s most powerful leader since the country began to hold contested elections in the years immediately following World War II. But two practical considerations will constrain how Erdoğan uses his impressive set of new prerogatives.

ISTANBUL – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has now fulfilled his ultimate political objective of being the country’s first ever popularly elected executive president, receiving almost 53% of the national vote in Sunday’s election. A year ago, Erdoğan pushed through constitutional amendments to transform Turkey’s parliamentary democracy into a highly centralized presidential system. Now those amendments will come fully into force.

The constitutional changes give Erdoğan new powers to appoint vice presidents, ministers, and senior officials. They also allow him to dissolve parliament, be a member of a political party, have a greater say in appointing judges to the highest courts, issue decrees with the force of law, and impose a state of emergency. Narrowly approved by voters last April, the constitutional amendments also abolished the office of the prime minister. For the next five years, Erdoğan will be Turkey’s head of state, head of its ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), and head of government.

Erdoğan is secure in his position because an early presidential election requires a two-thirds parliamentary vote – an unlikely scenario given the AKP’s near-majority. He has thus become Turkey’s most powerful leader since the country began to hold contested elections in the years immediately following World War II. Turkey’s domestic and foreign policies will now be shaped, ultimately, by one man.

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