Charter debate begins with battlefield analogy

Charter debate begins with battlefield analogy

Bülent Sarıoğlu - ANKARA
Charter debate begins with battlefield analogy

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Turkey’s constitutional commission has begun negotiations on a new charter amid tension, as two opposition parties’ objection to the proposal on the grounds that it contradicts the first articles of the current constitution and that the state of emergency is still in effect was rejected by the parliamentary commission chair. 

The parliamentary constitutional committee commenced the debate on the entire charter after the main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) demanded the withdrawal of the constitutional proposal on the grounds that the charter violated the first four articles of the current constitution, which stipulates that the system cannot be changed, was refused by the panel chair on Dec. 21. 

The Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP), which focuses on the Kurdish issue, also raised concerns about the legitimacy and the transparency of the constitutional discussions, arguing that the proposal could not be discussed democratically within the conditions where 12 lawmakers are imprisoned and the state of emergency is still in effect. 

The demands of the CHP and the HDP representatives were rejected by the committee chair and negotiations started on the general proposal.  

Battlefield analogy

CHP committee member Özgür Özel’s previous comments reiterating his party’s determination to object to the enactment of the constitutional amendment caused tension in the panel as Justice and Development Party (AKP) lawmakers accused him of making threats. 

Özel likened the CHP’s opposition to the constitutional amendment to several battles fought in the Independence War, which led to the formation of the Turkish Republic in 1923, considering the AKP and the CHP as two combatting sides. “We will not let you make the regime change,” he said Dec. 20. 

“If you take back the authority which was taken from the palace and given to the public [by the independence war] and give it to the palace again, I am afraid we will not count the votes [in the presidential election]; we will weigh them,” he said, making an analogy between the two sides in a battle and a two-sided balance.  

“Are you challenging the people? You are making threats,” an AKP lawmaker shouted.

Naci Bostancı, the AKP’s group deputy chairperson, also criticized Özel, saying, “The sole basis [of the AKP] is the legitimate will of the public.”

CHP opposes the authorities given to president

Bülent Tezcan, the CHP’s group deputy chairperson, argued at the panel that the charter would grant the president the authority to create regional administrations, prompting concern among CHP lawmakers that the amendments could pave the way for a federal system. 

“It will give [the president] an opportunity to form regional administrations,” Tezcan argued. 

“This brings the administrative regulation which will threaten the unitary structure of Turkey into one hand,” he added. 

The CHP’s leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu also underlined his party’s opposition to the charter, saying the amendment was a preparation for a regime change, not a regulation on the governmental system. 

“The presidency is the path leading to a division of the country. They are trying to grant the president the authority to annul the parliament. It is not a system change; it is evidently a preparation for a regime change,” Kılıçdaroğlu said on his official Twitter account on Dec. 21.  

Criticizing the 14-year rule of the AKP government, Kılıçdaroğlu said the presidency would bring further problems to the country. 

Recalling the resignation of former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, who had been elected with 49.5 percent of the total votes, Kılıçdaroğlu criticized President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for not respecting the will of the public. 

“A person who had dismissed the votes of 49.5 percent of the people along with Davutoğlu will also dismiss 100 percent of the people’s votes after becoming president,” he said.