AKP in referendum effort ahead of final charter round in parliament
HÜRRİYET photoThe ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has begun discussing a potential charter referendum after Turkey’s parliament concluded a first round of voting on constitutional amendments late on Jan. 15 with the approval of the last two items in an 18-article package, paving the way for the start of a second round on Jan. 18.
Sources told daily Hürriyet that the public vote on the amendment proposal would take place on March 26 at the earliest and on April 16 at the latest.
Deputy Prime Minister and government spokesman Numan Kurtulmuş also said during an interview on broadcaster A Haber that the referendum may take place in early April.
“The right thing is to go to referendum as soon as the parliament makes its decision,” Kurtulmuş said. “The referendum will probably take place at the start of April.
Kurtulmuş also ruled out early elections if the charter changes are approved in the second round of voting.
“It is not right to speculate about early elections,” Kurtulmuş said in response to a question concerning the discussions raised about early elections. “Consequently, Turkey is headed to a referendum. And parliament will fulfill its duties during this period,” he added.
“The parliament’s term will go until 2019. During this period, the parliament will fulfill its responsibilities. We have many duties to fulfill, including the constitution ahead of us. The parliament is the place to realize these duties,” he said.
His comments came after Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli and AKP senior Mustafa Şentop said on Jan. 11 that early elections would be required if charter changes were not passed by parliament.
The opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the People’s Democracy Party (HDP) have interpreted the comments as a threat to prevent any defections on the charter vote.
Hürriyet columnist Abdülkadir Selvi also quoted Ahmet Sorgun, the head of the AKP’s elections desk, as saying the party would begin efforts for a referendum campaign as soon as the draft passes in parliament.
“We have completed the first round of the constitutional amendment without any defections. God willing, Turkey will acquire a more effective administrative model,” Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş posted on his official Twitter account on Jan. 16, following a late-night session in parliament where the last article of the amendment package was approved.
With the approval of the last six articles in a 16-hour session, lawmakers completed the first round of the charter sessions, paving the way for a possible referendum after seven days of marathon debates.
A referendum is expected as the articles have received an average of 343 votes, which exceeds the threshold of 330 to bring the charter to a referendum.
After casting his last vote in the last session, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım approached the MHP group and shook hands with Bahçeli. A majority of the 39-seat MHP has supported the 316-seat AKP in the General Assembly to legislate the constitutional amendments.
It was Bahçeli who initiated the constitutional amendment procedure with his comments on the necessity of a new constitution on Oct. 11, 2016. The prime minister also approached the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) group and conveyed his good wishes.
The second round of debates will begin on Jan. 18. In the second round, the lawmakers will debate the motions which were already submitted to parliament in the first round. Lawmakers will subsequently cast their final votes for the constitutional amendment.
The AKP aims to approve six items a day in the second round of the debates on the 18-article proposal and expects the whole proposal to be enacted by Jan. 21 at the latest.
While the law on the amendment of the constitution is slated to be submitted to the approval of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Jan. 23-24, the date of the public vote will be determined according to the use of the 15-day legal period granted to Erdoğan to approve the law.
The constitutional amendment will be made on the first Sunday after the 60th day following the publication of the vote in the Official Gazette.