Dispute overshadows new charter works

Dispute overshadows new charter works

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Dispute overshadows new charter works

A turmoil in the General Assembly on Feb 9 resulted in fistfights during the debate on the ruling party’s proposed amendements to the internal rules as the opposition occupied the parliamentary rostrum and blocked debate on the bill. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

Ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) first restricted the uninterrupted broadcast of Meclis TV, the parliament’s live television. Then it proposed an amendment in parliamentary internal regulations that restricted the speaking duration of the opposition in group proposals. The opposition, concerned with the government’s attitude that is increasingly granting fewer rights to speech, protested and occupied the speaker’s stand in the assembly hall of the parliament.

Will the amendment proposals to internal regulations be suspended or will there be a compromise, we will see during the week, but this much can be said: If the government insists on its proposal, it will cause much bigger fights. And more importantly, this will negatively affect the writing of the new constitution.

The AKP started out with the promise of making a “liberal, democratic, based on freedom of expression, human-focused” new constitution. The opposition thinks that at this stage, the background of AKP’s plans was revealed with the proposals to amend the internal regulations that came even before the content of the constitution was ever discussed.

I have spoken to prominent names in the opposition who are concerned that this restrictive approach will transform into impositions in the new constitution in the future. The sharp question in their minds is this: “What will happen if the AKP maintains this patronizing mentality in writing the new constitution? What if they take some clauses to the general assembly and try to impose a referendum - those clauses that the opposition has not agreed on - then what kind of a reconciliation charter will this be?”
No doubt, the dispute over internal rules has become a milestone on the opposition’s view of the writing of the new constitution. Tolerance has been wounded; suspicions, concerns and anxiety have stepped forward. We have seen some concrete steps last week. For the first time, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) members Rıza Türmen, Atilla Kart and Süheyl Batum did not attend a meeting of the Constitution Conciliation Commission in protest. Speaker of the Parliament Cemil Çiçek who was chairing the meeting had to cancel the session.

CHP commission member Atilla Kart is among those who have concerns that this tension would be echoed in the new constitution. “Might this lead to leaving the talks early?” I asked Kart. He answered, “The government’s stance has carried our suspicions and concerns to a certain point. It is up to our headquarters to decide to leave the talks.”

Similar comments are being made in other opposition parties Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

All three opposition parties believe that the imposition on the internal regulations has shadowed the writing of the new constitution process. They are not yet inclined to leave the table now but it seems as if they will be viewing every proposal submitted from now on with “prejudice.” The internal regulation dispute has created a serious “confidence crisis” over the new constitution process and looks as if it is there to stay.

Any changes in the Cabinet?
Rumors on possible changes in the Cabinet whispered in Parliament’s deepest corridors have increased. Several comments have been voiced, such as, “Several incidents that have recently developed and some problems being experienced in bureaucracy are forcing Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to make such a change.” It is also a high expectation that the prime minister will make clear preferences to send a message to some circles.

The color of the mood is different, though, in the government wing. The analysis the majority believes over there is as such: “Erdoğan does not like to change horses in midstream. If he is to make changes in the Cabinet, he would do them in fall during and after the party congress.”

Concerns of ‘occupation’
Parliament’s general assembly is to debate a proposal that the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan, currently serving a life sentence, should be banned from seeing his lawyers and relatives for six months if he is proved to have been giving instructions to the PKK. A concern is emerging in the ruling party: What will happen if the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) does what the CHP did and tries to occupy the parliamentary rostrum? According to some sources, this is not a distant probability. However, a second occupation of the rostrum would not be easily tolerated, because if the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) also becomes involved the fight would be much bigger.