Does BDP favor presidential system?
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
BDP deputies are seen while getting on a boat to Imralı Island, where the outlawed PKK leader Öcalan is kept in jail, in this March 23 photo. AFP photoThe echoes of the meeting held by Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) deputies Pervin Buldan, Sırrı Süreyya Önder and Altan Tan with Abdullah Öcalan at İmralı Island are continuing to reverberate. While all sides are trying to overcome the tremor created by the leak of the minutes of the meeting, Öcalan’s suggestions at the meeting are also being discussed. How will the “İmralı criteria” affect the process? Will the opposition’s criticism that “Öcalan is writing the Constitution” overturn the already shaking Constitution table?
Parliament’s Constitution Conciliation Commission deadlocked about a month ago at the “execution” section. The reason for this was that while the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) were suggesting the parliamentary system, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) was insisting on the “presidential system.” The BDP, however, considered both of systems to be open to debate and presented a strengthened parliamentary system as its official offer. The AKP’s insistence on the presidential system deadlocked the Commission, so this chapter was skipped to be tackled later when there was no consensus.
After the latest İmralı talks, eyes are again turned to the BDP. In that meeting, Öcalan said, “We will support Mr. Tayyip’s presidency. We can form an alliance with the AKP on this basis. However, this presidential system should be like the one in the United States, with a senate like a state chamber.
Then a second one like a people’s chamber. The latter could be named a ‘democratic Parliament,’ while the former could be named a ‘house of representatives,’ like in the U.S.” Even though he was putting forward certain conditions, Öcalan was therefore openly giving a green light to Erdoğan’s presidency. Following these words, what will the BDP do during the “executive” chapter that is due to be tackled in the coming days? Will it continue defending the parliamentary system, or will it revise its offer and go back to the presidential system?
Meral Danış Beştaş, BDP deputy chair and member of the Constitution Conciliation Commission as an “expert” for her party, answered my question. “We are open to discussing the presidential system. We have suggested the parliamentary system to the Commission, but we have also expressed there that we can discuss the presidential system,” she said.
Apparently, the BDP administration was aware that Öcalan would bring this system to the table and therefore prepared accordingly. So, what will the BDP do when the chapter comes to the table? “In principle, before the Commission we have formed with four parties is dispersed, we do not find it correct that we should bring such a suggestion,” Beştaş said.
‘No super powers’
She is openly saying that they may change their offer in favor of the presidential system within the framework of dual alliances, if the Commission ends up being dispersed. “We have suggested the parliamentary system in the executive and legislative chapters. However, we have also expressed that we are open to debate the presidential system. It may not be possible in a four-party structure, so if new alliances are on the agenda we would not be closed to debating this. If we sit around a table with the AKP, we could debate this system; if we agree, we would support it. What is important for us is a democratic governance system where people can find themselves represented,” Beştaş said.
I reminded her of the content of the AKP’s “presidential system” offer. She replied: “We would not prefer the ‘super presidential’ system that the AKP has suggested.” Beştaş also explained that they would favor a system similar to the U.S. model with strong control pillars. “The president should not possess super powers. He or she should report to Parliament. The equilibrium and the control should be based on strong foundations. In this system, democracy should be experienced at its highest level.
Otherwise, no matter under what conditions, we are not in favor of a strong and uncontrolled presidential model.” The latest deadline Erdoğan gave to the Constitution Conciliation Commission expires at the end of this month. It looks difficult for the four parties to put their signatures under a joint Constitution, while the stance of the opposition also indicates that Öcalan’s leaked words will accelerate the Commission’s dispersal.
First test on March 8
I had the opportunity to talk to the Co-Chair of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Selahattin Demirtaş during the week. The minutes of the İmralı meeting had not been leaked to the press yet.
Demirtaş said World Women’s Day on March 8 would be a test for the sincerity of the government, saying, “There will be many women’s rallies on March 8. The attitude toward these rallies is a parameter for us. Will the government ban them? In the province of Van, the public prosecutor has banned posters on March 8 and has launched cases for the closure of 10 associations. We will see if the stance changes, whether those practices of oppressing us and pressuring the streets will change.” Let’s see if this test will be passed after the leakage of the minutes.
Danger waiting for CHP
Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chair Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said since day one that they would not leave the Constitution conciliation table. Despite this, the nationalist wing of the CHP is uncomfortable. This discomfort has altogether increased with the leakage of Öcalan’s comments on the new Constitution. The nationalists are forcing the party to leave the table without waiting for the end of March, with the slogan “No to the AKP-Öcalan Constitution.” They are also debating formulating this demand with an anti-administration declaration. The reformists, on the other hand, want to stay at the table until the end. The new Constitution process may bring unexpected internal clashes and moreover resignations within the CHP.