Tag Archives: presidentialization

Marién Durán – ‘Dual Presidentialization and Autocratization: Turkey at a Critical Crossroads

This is a guest post by Marién Durán. It is based on an article that was recently published in Mediterranean Quarterly (2018) 29 (3): 98-116. https://doi.org/10.1215/10474552-7003192.

The article argues that dual presidentialization has accelerated Turkey’s movement toward autocracy in several ways: a greater control over the judicial branch and over public freedoms, in general, and freedom of the press, in particular.

This idea of dual presidentialization, a new concept proposed in this article, is useful for explaining autocratization and its implications. That the system is presidential does not always imply authoritarianism or autocratization; problems arise when a presidential system is designed with no adequate checks and balances or when the country is not a democracy.
What does dual presidentilialization mean in Turkey? It means that there has been a convergence or combination of two forms of presidentialization: legal reforms, and contingent or informal factors. In the first place, the article explores the legal and constitutional reforms that created presidentialization. The second relates to the presidentialization of Turkish politics, with an analysis of both the executive and the electoral and party aspects of the process, in accordance with the analytical framework provided by Thomas Poguntke and Paul Webb (2005). The objective is to explain how the resources of power have increased through both institutional reforms and the informal aspect.

The study of Turkey’s constitutional reforms is key to understanding the importance and impact of the institutional changes increasing the ruler’s power resources. The article analyzes constitutional changes that began with the 1982 constitution of the Third Republic, including the role of the president and the prime minister, the reform of the constitution in 2007 that enabled the direct election of the president of the republic, and the reforms approved in the 2017 referendum that converted Turkey to a presidential system. Both the 1982 constitution, without any adequate check and balances, and its successor in 2007 paved the way for a system in which priority is given to granting greater powers and control to the executive branch. Finally, the reforms approved in the 2017 referendum favor a presidential system without any constraints.

These constitutional reforms in Turkey have been accompanied by a process of presidentialization in which a charismatic figure has a particular and personal style. What does the presidentialization of Turkish mean? In this case, it refers to “the process by which regimes are becoming more presidential in their actual practice without, in most cases, changing their formal structure, that is, their regime-type.” (Poguntke, Webb, 2005). We refer to Poguntke and Webb work, because in the case of Turkey, this process has accompanied Turkish politics for decades, which became more pronounced since 2002 when the AKP came into power. Consequently, independently of any legal and constitutional factors, there have been contingent and structural factors leading toward a more presidential manner of acting, contributing in the end to a change in the form of the state.

Given we have clarified what dual presidentialization is, how has Turkey’s dual presidentialization accelerated the movement towards autocracy? The article analyzes that impact in terms of three key indicators: judicial power, civil liberties in general, and press freedom.
Why these areas specifically? This is because the judiciary and the media are horizontal and vertical checks and balances respectively on executive power. Certain power resources, such as electoral victories, the control of the main institutions and agencies, and the support of the ruling party, have helped President Erdoğan control appointments to the main positions in the judiciary.

Important reforms to the judiciary began in 2010 and continued in 2013 (due to corruption cases in AKP). The philosophy of these changes was to guarantee that there were no judicial decisions that could be negative for the AKP in important trials. Consequently, since 2013 onwards the judiciary has been under considerable pressure from the executive, damaging the separation of power.

Regarding civil liberties, the media and civil society constitute vertical checks and balances that have been eroded significantly in recent years by reforms and by the government’s authoritarian style. The AKP’s majority in parliament has allowed these reforms to be carried out. They also include Erdoğan’s continued leadership and ideology, with his belief in a “pious generation” and the imposition of certain values (including declarations regarding LGBT rights, couple relations, and so forth); as well as the control of the main institutions and media.

Finally, the AKP has continually degraded the freedom of the press since 2002, both in legal and constitutional terms and in the executive aspects of presidentialization. In this latter regard such pressure has been carried out in various forms: by creating communications media outlets close to the party and by placing pressure on the communications media. Pressure on journalists is common and Reporters without Borders lists numerous violations. Some indices such as Freedom House have reduced Turkey from the status of partially free to not free.

In summary, the progressive concentration of institutional power, aided by personal factors, has led to a process of autocratization. Since Erdoğan came to power, he has been able to gather enough resources to erode and virtually destroy certain checks and balances. His absolute control over the AKP, his ideology, the consecutive electoral victories (parliamentary, local, and presidential), his charismatic leadership, the control of the main institutions and state agencies, social networks, and media control have repressed freedom and institutions. In other words, the system has been damaged in terms of the functioning of government, rights, and public liberties.

Gianluca Passarelli – The presidentialization of political parties: A new perspective

This is a guest post by Gianluca Passarelli, who is an Associate Professor in Political Science at the Department of Political Sciences, Sapienza University, Rome. He is the editor of a new book, The Presidentialization of Political Parties: Organizations, Institutions and Leaders, published by Palgrave Macmillan

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What actually makes a president of the Republic a leader in (semi-)presidential regimes? And when, if ever, is it possible that a party leader, once he or she has become the head of government in a parliamentary regime, can come close to the style of leadership in similar cases in which the separation of powers exists? If the institutions influence the behavior of politicians, and thus of the parties, it is necessary to understand and explain if and in what way it is possible to refer to ‘presidentialized’ party organizations outside of the institutional context that defines its characteristics: the presidential regime.

The presidentialization of politics is a relatively new and important phenomenon. However, the term presidentialization has become highly debatable. In particular, the more contentious side is offered by the suggestion that presidentialization of politics could make (semi) presidential regimes and parliamentary ones more similar to presidentialism.

The present state of affairs, in very brief terms, sees those on the one side who maintain that it almost exclusively the institutions that influence, condition and make possible (or not) party ( and therefore also political) presidentialization. On the other, we find those who insist that political presidentialization – intended as a centralization of governmental, elective and party functions – is a verifiable “tendency” in practically all western democracies. For various reasons, we would argue that to this dichotomy can be added a variable, the component connected to the “nature” of the parties analyzed, which can contribute to spotlighting a phenomenon that is being widely discussed throughout the (not only academic) world. In light of these different research hypotheses, we seek to approach our analysis by flanking the party variable with the institutional one.

The aim of our research is to explain why the level of party presidentialization varies from one country to another. If it is true that that constitutional structures affect the level of party presidentialization, we are adding the party’s original features and arguing that the degree of party presidentialization varies as a function of the party’s genetics, that are the original organizational characteristics of each party.

The literature has mainly focused on the general process of personalization that has been detected in recent modern politics, especially in western democracies. Depending on the cases studied, on the research fields and the data availability (and reliability), the studies conducted have had different foci. The role of institutions, the characteristics of leadership and leaders, as well as the electoral process or the mass media influence, have been the main explanatory variables analyzed in order to explain the phenomenon of «presidentialization». Thus, the weakening of party loyalties, the kind of electoral system, the influence of mass media, and the form of government have in turn been considered as the independent variable, the factor that justifies the above mentioned phenomenon of a «presidentialization of politics». We place greater stress both on the concept of presidentialization, and on demonstrating empirical evidence of the phenomenon, if any such evidence exists. Indeed, the presidentialization of politics in our view means the presidentialization of parties, or better yet, a phenomenon that arises from the political parties’ behavior.

The causal trajectory is summarized as follows: constitutional structures affect party presidentialization through the medium of endogenous party factors. We consider the genetic model of organizational development (penetration v. diffusion), the characteristics of the dominant coalition (factions v. tendencies), as well the balance of power in the dominant coalition (central office v. public office). There are three factors concerning party genetic features: 1) the organization’s construction and development; 2) the presence or the absence (at the party’s origin) of an external “sponsor”; 3) the role of charisma in the party’s formation (Panebianco 1988, pp. 50-2).

We basically claim that differences between «personalization of politics» and «presidentialization of politics» essentially refer the fact that: a) the previous implies mainly considering a sort of personal «capital» in terms of skills, characteristics, attitudes, etc., while b) the latter consider primarily institutional resources, constraints and opportunities.

The results tend to confirm both of the starting hypotheses: a) the presidentialization of political parties is a phenomenon (and a concept with clear empirical “aspects”) that must inevitably arise in presidential regimes (and also in semi-presidential ones, under certain circumstances); b) the genetic characteristics of political parties function as an intervening variable capable of accentuating the opportunities offered by the institutions from a presidentialization perspective, or rather they circumvent restrictions and produce presidential effects, even if limited in time and space. Moreover, the results indicate an increasing level of presidentialization in parties (and thus indirectly in political systems) where the parties have original, genetic features capable of accentuating the institutional opportunities for such a development. Independent of the distinctions between regimes, «centralized» parties that are cohesive, disciplined, without factions and with a leadership that is «independent» from the organization (for extra-political or statutory resources) will be more suitable to increasing levels of presidentialization. Vice versa, political parties that have a fragmented and divided leadership, and are permeated by fractions, factions and ideological conflicts as well as by “decentralized” and diffused organizational structures, will have considerably greater difficulty in concentrating resources around a single individual. General results confirm our hypothesis about the importance and influence of the genetic characteristics of the parties and equally about the inescapable influence of the constitutional structure.

Gianluca Passarelli (gianluca.passarelli@uniroma1.it) is Associate Professor in Political Science at the Department of Political Sciences, Sapienza University, Roma. He earned his PhD in Comparative and European Politics at the University of Siena, and he has been research fellow at the University of Bologna. His research interests lie in presidents of the Republic, political parties, electoral systems, elections and electoral behaviour. He has authored, co-authored, or edited books on presidents, political parties, and constitutional regimes. He has published in journals such as French Politics, South European Society and Politics, Contemporary Italian Politics and Political Geography.