Turkey’s election process, which began on May 14, is ongoing. It is well-known that the choices made by citizens who went to the polls on May 14 determined the distribution of seats in the legislature but did not result in the election of a president. Following this election, the ruling People’s Alliance regained its majority in the National Assembly, while the opposition remained in the minority.
Regardless of who wins the presidential election on May 28, Turkey is expected to face challenging days ahead. If Tayyip Erdoğan is re-elected as President, the disadvantages of the existing one-man rule will persist, worsening the country’s already desperate situation. This would also hinder our society’s ability, at least in the near future, to achieve values fundamental to a humane and civilized existence, such as the democratic rule of law, human rights, justice, prosperity, and even peace.
On the other hand, a victory for Kılıçdaroğlu would likely lead to a reduction in the oppressive and persecutory policies of the Erdoğan regime, which have affected almost all segments of society for nearly a decade. It may also alleviate the prevailing pessimism in the country to some extent. However, this does not guarantee that Kılıçdaroğlu’s presidency would automatically set Turkey on the path to freedom, democracy, peace, and prosperity. Since the National Alliance does not hold a majority in the legislature, it could not implement the comprehensive political and legal reform program and constitutional amendments promised by the table of six meetings, which require extensive and careful preparation. Furthermore, the division of power between the legislative and executive branches, controlled by separate and opposing political teams, may lead to tensions and conflicts that risk paralyzing the system.
Nevertheless, let us remain hopeful that May 28 will mark the beginning of dispelling the clouds of despair and pessimism hanging over our country.
See you in the next Freedom Observer issue.
* Prof. Dr. Mustafa Erdoğan
Status of Ministers Elected as Members of Parliament
In 2017, a constitutional amendment changed the government system of the Republic of Turkey, introducing a new system called the “Presidential Government System.” However, it is not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution. Article 8 of the Constitution states that the President exercises executive power and duties. Article 106 of the Constitution grants the President the authority to appoint and dismiss vice presidents and ministers. Appointed vice presidents and ministers must take an oath before the Grand National Assembly of Turkey. They are responsible to the President, as stated in the same provision. Additionally, the article specifies that members of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey cease to be members if appointed as vice presidents or ministers.
Furthermore, Article 98 of the Constitution allows the Grand National Assembly members to pose written questions to vice presidents and ministers and initiate parliamentary investigations against them. Moreover, according to Article 106, vice presidents and ministers can be referred to the Supreme Court if two-thirds of the total number of members of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey vote in favor on the grounds of crimes committed in connection with their duties. They benefit from legislative immunity regarding personal crimes.
Considering all these provisions collectively, it can be understood that vice presidents and ministers do not possess direct executive authority but are public officials appointed and dismissed by the President and are accountable to him. The Constitution explicitly states that the vice presidency and ministry positions are incompatible with membership in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey. However, the Constitution and laws must regulate the rules applied if vice presidents and ministers become candidates for membership in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey.
In the 28th parliamentary elections held on May 14, 2023, the Vice President and 15 ministers became parliamentary candidates without resigning from their positions. Despite allegations that this contradicted the Constitution and principles of political ethics, these concerns were disregarded, and the Supreme Election Board decided that these individuals did not need to resign. Consequently, during the election process, these individuals utilized their ministerial powers and state resources without limitations for election campaign purposes. All of these individuals were elected as MPs. Still, the presidential election on the same day ended in a second round as no candidate received an absolute majority of votes. This raised questions about the status of the Vice President and 15 ministers elected as deputies.
The Constitution explicitly prohibits holding both the positions of the vice presidency and membership in the Grand National Assembly simultaneously. According to the Constitution, if an MP is appointed a minister, they will lose their deputy status. However, the situation becomes unclear when it comes to other circumstances. Therefore, the legal gap needs to be addressed through interpretation. Two questions arise in this regard: First, when will the title of deputy be acquired? And second, in the event of obtaining the title of deputy, which of the titles—minister or deputy—will be relinquished?
It is important to note that obtaining the status of an MP is not the same as assuming office as an MP. According to the Constitution, MPs can only assume office once they take the oath. However, they still need to obtain the status of an MP. MPs acquire the status of an MP even before taking the oath and enjoy the rights and privileges associated with this status.  The prevailing view is that the status of an MP is acquired when the election results are announced. Some argue that parliamentary status is obtained after the voting process ends and the election results are announced. Therefore, not taking the oath of office does not imply that the title of an MP is not acquired. With the announcement of the election results, the Vice President and ministers obtained the title of MP.
In this case, it is necessary to acknowledge that the vice presidency and ministries of those elected as deputies will be relinquished upon the announcement of the election results. This means that their exercise of authority and actions as ministers during this period is unconstitutional and unlawful, and their actions are considered invalid. This situation again highlights that the 2017 constitutional amendments were made without thorough consideration.
* Ali Rıza Çoban – Constitutional Lawyer
May 14 Elections
The results of the parliamentary and presidential elections held on May 14, 2023, were announced by the Supreme Election Board (YSK) in the official publication of the Official Gazette. According to the official results, Erdoğan, the candidate of the People’s Alliance, received 49.54 percent of the valid votes, while Kılıçdaroğlu, the candidate of the Millet Alliance, received 44.88 percent. The third candidate, Sinan Oğan, received 5.17 percent of the votes, while Muharrem İnce withdrew as a candidate. The People’s Alliance secured a parliamentary majority. As a result, the optimistic projections based on pre-election polls failed to materialize, leading to a profound disappointment among the opposition on the evening of May 14.
Following the elections, allegations of electoral fraud emerged and persisted for several days. Apart from the typical material errors that occur in almost every election, there were reports of significant discrepancies between the wet-signed ballot box reports and the results announced by the YSK. While the opposition attempted to explain this unexpected difference based on these reports, CHP’s leader Kılıçdaroğlu did not make any public statements to address the issue. Later, it was revealed that there were problems with the software used by the CHP to retrieve the data. 
During the 2018 elections, the Fair Election Platform, led by the CHP, faced a significant debacle concerning comparing ballot box minutes and data transfer. In response to a crisis similar to the one in 2018, Kılıçdaroğlu dismissed Onursal Adıgüzel, the Deputy Chairman in charge of Information and Communication Technologies. Additionally, apart from technical issues with data transfer, it was discovered that material errors had occurred in some ballot boxes. CHP Deputy Chairman Muharrem Erkek stated that discrepancies were detected in 2,269 presidential ballot boxes and 4,825 ballot boxes for parliamentary seats and emphasized their commitment to monitoring every vote, even if it does not alter the overall result.  There were also allegations that the CHP did not have polling officers in thousands of ballot boxes. The CHP, which had been claiming for months that it had undertaken necessary measures regarding ballot box security, minute comparison, and data transfer, should provide transparent and convincing explanations to the public regarding the disruptions that occurred on election night and afterward.
Looking ahead to May 28
The second round of the presidential election will take place as neither Tayyip Erdoğan nor Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu secured a decisive victory in the first round. Erdoğan, who came close to winning in the initial round, enters the second round with a numerical and moral advantage. The opposition, disappointed by the outcome of both the presidential and parliamentary elections on May 14, facing challenges in ballot security, data transfer, and internal disputes, appears to lack motivation heading into the second round. This hopelessness might discourage opposition voters from participating in the second round.
Moreover, although Kılıçdaroğlu has intensified his nationalist and anti-immigrant rhetoric in the past week, it is expected that the number of votes he will gain in the second round from those who initially voted for Oğan after Oğan announced his support for Erdoğan will be minimal. Suppose Erdoğan wins significantly in the second round, leveraging his moral advantage. In that case, it will signify approval from the people for a regime that undermines democratic institutions, perpetuates rights violations, politicizes the state, and favors partisan distribution of resources. This outcome is likely to result in Erdoğan pursuing similar policies over the next five years, further deepening the erosion of rights and well-being of the population in the years to come.
* Ömer Faruk Şen – Ph.D. – Missouri University
Foreign Exchange (FX) and Banks after the Election
On May 14, 2023, Turkey held a crucial election that will directly impact the Turkish economy. As we have emphasized numerous times in this bulletin, the fundamental economic indicators and the realities they reveal are closely tied to political developments in Turkey. In established democracies with a separation of powers, independent financial institutions have precise capabilities and boundaries, making it less likely for momentary political developments to affect the economy profoundly. However, in Turkey, the institutional capacity of these institutions has been significantly weakened due to government interference. Consequently, the policies of institutions such as the Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency, the Capital Markets Board, and the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey are determined by politicians’ short-term growth objectives and partisan calculations rather than by experts who base their decisions on rational realities.
It is well-known that there is a rational basis for central banks to be independent, allowing monetary policies to be determined by autonomous decision-makers. This is primarily due to the issue of time inconsistency. A Central Bank document explicitly states: “The existence of independent central banks committed to achieving and maintaining a low inflation rate has emerged as a solution to the problem of time inconsistency. In other words, the presence of a central bank that formulates long-term policies based on the objective of price stability and makes credible commitments to implementing these policies can help resolve the issue of time inconsistency and enhance credibility.” 
Regrettably, Turkey is currently facing challenging times due to the fiscal policies pursued by the government, which prioritize electoral victories and short-term growth. The problems are further exacerbated when monetary policies accompany fiscal policies. We will delve into the details in upcoming bulletins, but it is worth briefly discussing the Turkish banking system’s foreign exchange (FX) deficit.
In the Turkish banking system, residents’ foreign currency deposits amount to $212 billion, while banks’ foreign debts, including syndicated loans, amount to $95 billion. In other words, a total of $307 billion in liabilities belonging to depositors on the banks’ balance sheets. On the other hand, the amount of foreign currency held by banks is only $23 billion, excluding swaps with the Central Bank or foreign currency held by the banks themselves. The Central Bank has $75 billion on its balance sheet, excluding swaps.
The so-called “Turkish economic model” relies on transferring the foreign currency of banks, depositors, and exporters to the Central Bank through the banking system. This mechanism creates a cycle by reintroducing the foreign currency transferred to the Central Bank into the market. However, the substantial current account deficit hinders the smooth functioning of this cycle. We anticipate that this situation will further worsen after the elections.
* Enes Özkan – Economist, Istanbul University
 For an example defending this view based on a YSK decision, see Murat Sevinç, Diken, 17.05.2023, https://www.diken.com.tr/nasilsiniz-arkadaslar-toparlandik-mi-harika-haydi-o-zaman/