AKP, MHP leaders discuss new charter, presidential bid

AKP, MHP leaders discuss new charter, presidential bid

AKP, MHP leaders discuss new charter, presidential bid

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The leaders of Turkey’s ruling and nationalist opposition parties have met to discuss efforts to write a new constitution that would also impose a presidential system, a week after the latter signaled his potential support for such a change. 

Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli met in a face-to-face meeting for around 90 minutes at the Çankaya Palace upon the former’s invitation on Oct. 17. Although the leaders did not make any statement after the meeting, sources from the office of the prime ministry said the two men discussed the ongoing fight against terror, Turkish troops’ operations in northern Syria, the Mosul operation, as well as the new constitution.

The meeting was precipitated by Bahçeli’s proposal last week to hold a referendum to allow Turkey’s people to decide whether the country should shift to an executive presidential system, something President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) have long desired.

“We will respect the decision of the Turkish people on the presidential system. The AK Party [Justice and Development Party] should introduce its own constitutional draft to parliament. This draft will either be approved if it garners 367 votes or will be taken to a referendum if it gets more than 330 votes [but less than 367],” Bahçeli said.

The MHP leader’s proposal was enthusiastically welcomed by AKP members as Yıldırım vowed to submit the party’s own charter draft that includes a change in the regime to the parliament very soon.   

With 316 seats in parliament, the AKP is at least 14 votes short of introducing a constitutional amendment, as any charter change requires the support of at least 330 votes in order to take it to a referendum. Yıldırım said his government would take the new constitution to a referendum even though it would be supported by an absolute majority of parliament. 

The MHP leader’s comments even prompted some government members to draw a timeline for a potential vote on the charter. According to Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ, a referendum could be held in early 2017 if two parties settle on the terms.

“If parliament puts [the constitutional charter] on its agenda and makes a decision at once, [the referendum] will be held in 2017, no later than the spring. But it seems it will be difficult to complete it before 2017 since there is a legislative process in parliament,” he said last week. 

“We have a very short, two-and-a-half month period ahead of us, but to get it done in 2017, before the spring, seems manageable as long as the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) agree on a date for the parliamentary vote,” he said.

“When the two parties agree, we will see the referendum. If not, [the constitutional change] will be left as a discussion,” Bozdağ said.