News & Politics

Erdogan: We Can Have a Presidential System With a Unitary State, Just Look at Hitler!

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan listens to statements at the COP21, United Nations Climate Change Conference, in Le Bourget, outside Paris, Monday, Nov. 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

Turkish president Erdoğan wants his country’s Parliament to adopt a new Constitution in 2016 that would empower the president and weaken the legislative body. Because many Turks are worried by this prospect — fearing that it would turn him into a dictator — he tried to comfort them yesterday.

He did so by pointing out that a so-called presidential system and a unitary state certainly are possible. Just look at Hitler’s Germany!

I kid you not:

There is no such thing as ‘no presidential system in unitary states.’ There are examples of this around the world. There are examples in the past, too. When you look at Hitler’s Germany, you can see it there. You can see examples in other countries as well. What is important is that a presidential system should not disturb the people in its implementation. If you provide justice, there will be no problem because what people want and expect is justice.

Erdoğan wants to create a Turkish-style presidential system because he believes that the separation of powers weakens the state to act. Of course that’s exactly why Western conservatives and libertarians support it, but the Turkish president has a slightly different opinion. To him, having a “double-headed government” is a problem, not an advantage. And so he wants to get rid of it. The result of this will, of course, be that he’ll become the most powerful Turkish politician since the Ottoman sultans.

That’s troubling enough, but it’s even worse that he’s holding up Hitler’s Germany as an example instead of a cautionary tale against one-man rule. Hitler had a “unitary state,” with all power concentrated in the Reichskanzler. True. But he also locked up his opponents, persecuted Jews and his political enemies, and eventually put them in concentration camps where he gassed them. He also conquered almost all of Europe in a desperate and violent attempt to create a National Socialist empire.

If that’s the kind of leader Erdoğan looks to for inspiration, Turkey — and the rest of the region — are more in trouble than most of his critics suspected.