If politics is the art of the possible…
As Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said the day he formed the cabinet on May 24, the main and urgent matter in Turkish politics for the moment is whether or not the de facto situation of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will be transformed into a legal, de jure situation.
The voting on the lifting of political immunities in the parliament last week has shown us that the Republican People’s Party (CHP) can be frightened with a referendum and that it can even vote for a thing it does not want.
This experience is extremely important for only one reason: Today, the CHP was scared of a referendum, tomorrow the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) may be frightened of an early election possibility; thus, even though it does not want to, it may say “yes” to a constitutional amendment of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) proposing a president affiliated with a political party.
CHP has two options
In light of these two assumptions, the first option for the CHP is to say “no” to all proposals brought by the ruling AK Party. A comprehensive amendment introducing the presidential system or a two- or three-article amendment for a president affiliated with a political party may be proposed. The CHP will vote negative with all its force to all of them, then if the MHP also votes and the amendment is taken to a referendum, then the “no” campaign will continue. (Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu experienced this in the constitutional amendment in 2010; the AK Party, together with a bulk of the votes of MHP and the Kurdish voters who did not support the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), achieved the amendment by a vote of 58 percent. This victory carried the AK Party to 50 percent in the 2011 elections, whereas the CHP obtained almost no gains.)
The second option is “yes, but…” The CHP may evaluate that there is a strong probability that the amendment proposed by the AK Party will go to a referendum and be accepted; then it may decide to prefer the least dangerous option for itself and the country. It may decide to have a somewhat guiding effect even if in a slight sense; in other words, it might be able to do the art of the possible.
The CHP choosing the first option, which is a total “No,” is the strongest possibility. However, if there is a surprise and the CHP goes for the second option, then there are some variants.
The AK Party and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in the name of his own consistency, will prioritize the presidential system; only when it becomes definite that they cannot achieve this, will they go for a presidency with a political party affiliation.
Well, which one is more disadvantageous for the CHP? We know that the CHP is defending the parliamentarian government system, not the presidential system. However, in concrete terms, the matter is not the name of the system, but actually the issue is the powers the constitution grants to the administration. Today, it is the CHP that complains the most about the situation of the president. The scariest scenario for the CHP must be the one that without any change in the sharing of power and responsibilities in the constitution, for the president to be the head of the executive.
As far as I can see, this is the most valid scenario for the moment. In other words, removing the clause from the constitution that bans the president from being affiliated with a party and making a tiny change in the oath of the president, and perhaps making some changes to the 112th article of the constitution in the powers and responsibilities of the prime minister seem to be the target of the AK Party.
Would the CHP, which has taken a step at the cost of violating its own political discourse with referendum concerns in the voting on immunities, worry about the possibility of “a party-affiliated president and an appointed prime minister” being accepted in the referendum and say “let us thoroughly discuss this presidential system?”
Probably, with a more than 90 percent possibility, the CHP will say “no” to all proposals brought by the AK Party and take the risk of a referendum. On the other hand, politics is doing the art of the possible.