AKP, MHP win 1st vote in debate for presidency

AKP, MHP win 1st vote in debate for presidency

AKP, MHP win 1st vote in debate for presidency

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Turkey’s parliament will formally launch debates on a constitutional amendment package that will usher in a powerful presidential system after lawmakers from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) passed a motion through parliament.

The initial vote in parliament was to decide whether to proceed with a debate on 18 articles of the constitutional amendment package, which was drafted by the AKP and MHP. After lengthy and tense arguments inside and outside parliament, 338 lawmakers voted in favor of the motion while 134 voted against. Two lawmakers abstained and five cast blank votes in a secret ballot. Some 480 lawmakers in the 550-seat parliament were present for the vote.

During the vote, Health Minister Recep Akdağ voted in the open in violation of parliamentary bylaws. “I’m committing a crime; what’s it to you? Am I going to ask you?” he is heard saying on a video taken by an opposition MP. 

During the discussions, PM Binali Yıldırım said the regulations outlined in the offer would solve the problems that Turkey will face in the future.

“The changes will solve the problems that may arise in the future and the conditions in our country and will remove some troubles that we face as an administration,” Yıldırım said Jan. 9.

There is no administration without a will, Yıldırım added.

“I am a sailor myself, and two captains sink a ship. The captain must be the only one, the captain must be the only one in action. How? You give authority to the executive, you define the system accordingly, then you ask for an account,” he added.

Answering questions and criticisms from lawmakers on the proposal as a whole, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ referred to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, saying that in a time of turmoil, criticism was futile.

“[In the time of Independence War], lawmakers did not make an argument asking: ‘Will the Independence War end when you make the constitution?’ Because there was a need for a new constitution and it was fulfilled. That debate was not made in the 1924 Constitution,” Bozdağ said, adding that the parliamentary system was not effective in the current circumstances.

“In the executive, the problem of stability has always been there. We see that many governments were established even in the periods when there was a single party government,” he added.

“This parliament is authorized to make the constitution, to amend the constitution and to do all the legal regulations in the period of terror, while the terror continues, and there is no dispute on this subject,” he said.

‘Charter changes will destroy our political traditions’

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Deniz Baykal criticized the entire bill, saying the content of the charter was not known well by the public and that the charter gave the impression that it was being prepared in a haste.

“This project is a project that is being prepared hastily and is far from legal and political maturity,” he said.

“It will destroy our century-old political tradition based on the understanding of the sovereignty of the nation and the supremacy of the parliament; the national political culture will collapse and this proposal will substitute the sovereignty of the nation with the hegemony of one person,” Baykal added.

Opposition People’s Democracy Party (HDP) Adana lawmaker Meral Danış Beştaş also criticized the amendment, slamming the government for staging a “civilian coup.”

“Constitutions reflect the circumstances of the period in which they are made,” she said.

“After the July 15 [2016] coup attempt, the identity of the putschists has changed. The ruling party has taken over the wheel. We are suffering a coup right now. If there had been a coup [in July 2016], we would be experiencing the same thing as we are experiencing today. This coup continues. Now a parliamentary coup is being staged,” she said.

“The 1982 constitution aimed to form a male, Turkish and Sunni constitution. With this amendment, this statement is reiterated. On top of the male, Turkish and Sunni constitution, there will be a male sultan,” she added.

MHP continues to back changes

Meanwhile, the MHP, which has supported the preparation of the constitutional amendment charter despite previously excoriating President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s desires to become a super president, defended the constitutional amendment.

“This constitutional amendment proposal is not a regime change, it is only a change of government system, in fact, it is more precisely the clarification of a government system,” Afyonkarahisar lawmaker Mehmet Parsak said.

Ruling party and main oppositon CHP lawmakers argue in front of the voting booths on the parliament’s floor during a parliamentary debate on a charter draft for a shift to a presidential system. On Jan 9, 338 MPs voted to continue the debate.