All eyes on president on local elections quandary

All eyes on president on local elections quandary

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
All eyes on president on local elections quandary

Turkey’s Parliament fails to bring local elections up to an earlier date. DAILY NEWS photo

Parliament approved late on Friday a constitutional amendment bringing local elections forward by five months. However, since the amendment was approved by 360 votes, just short of the two-thirds majority needed for it to pass without a second reading, eyes now turn to President Abdullah Gül, for either returning it for a second debate or taking it to the people in a referendum.

According to the Constitution, any amendment approved by from 330 votes to 367 votes is subject to referendum. The total number of seats of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) who were both in favor of the amendment - is 368, so there is some speculation as to the why the draft fell eight votes short.

Three options

If Gül eventually returns the amendment to Parliament, the AKP has three options: trying its luck once again in cooperation with the MHP, cooperating with the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) for holding early local elections on Nov. 3, 2013, or suspending the amendment.

On Sunday, Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay said nobody wanted a referendum on the subject.

“It will either come back to Parliament … and again be voted on, or it will be given up,” Atalay told private T.V. news station 24, adding that he considered the possibility of holding a referendum to be very weak.

A considerable number of AKP executives believe that Gül will return the amendment to the Parliament, thus avoiding unnecessary referendum expense. However, if he takes the step of sending it to a referendum, the 15-day review process and 60-day preparation process means that Dec. 30 would be the estimated referendum date.

On Saturday, MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli said his party stood behind its signature under the proposal, while underlining difficulties that a possible referendum could bring. Referring to Bahçeli’s words, AKP executives say that they may try again to get the amendment approved, and note that the final word on the issue will be given by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Still, as the amendment will have to be discussed at the Commission and a two-round voting process is required, the date of the elections will have to be changed and this date will probably be within November.

The AKP’s Ahmet İyimaya, the head of Parliamentary Justice Commission, meanwhile, argued that Parliament may withdraw the amendment if the president sends it to a referendum. Such a withdrawal has happened in the past, he said.

The CHP, for its part, still does not view the question of holding early elections favorably.