Former AKP seniors share referendum ideas, criticism with PM

Former AKP seniors share referendum ideas, criticism with PM

Nuray Babacan - ANKARA
Former AKP seniors share referendum ideas, criticism with PM

AA photo

A group of former Justice and Development Party (AKP) ministers and other senior figures from the ruling party shared their concerns over the upcoming referendum at a April 16 meeting with Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, according to sources. 

Ali Coşkun, a former minister, reportedly criticized the government’s recent tension with Europe, calling for calm in relations with “Germany, which sends us the most tourists, and the Netherlands, which makes the biggest investments in Turkey.” 

Former EU Minister Volkan Bozkır also drew attention to the issue. 

“Some 3 million Turkish citizens abroad live in Germany and the Netherlands. This issue is very important in terms of their future. We are already Europeans, so we have to behave like Europeans,” Bozkır said, according to sources. 

Cemil Çiçek, a former AKP official, criticized the government’s cooperation with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) in the charter change bid, sources told Hürriyet. 

“I think both the timing and the content of the regulation for the presidential system are wrong. There are also different evaluations about the MHP’s involvement in the issue and their real intention. It was wrong to tag along with them. We should be prioritizing the real problems of the country. We are only losing time [with the referendum],” Çelik reportedly said during the meeting. 

However, in a statement on March 22, Çelik said his expressions appeared in media reports out of the context, leading to misunderstandings. 

“I had expressions regarding how the MHP introduced the issue of the presidential system after it was shelved from the agenda,” he said. 

Çelik was the parliamentary speaker between July 2011 and June 2015, after serving as justice minister from 2002 to 2007 and as deputy prime minister from 2007 to 2011. 

Some attendees of the meeting also reportedly warned about the extensive dismissals of state personnel during the ongoing state of emergency declared after the July 15, 2016, coup attempt. Yıldırım said these steps were being taken “very carefully” and vowed that “if there are mistakes, they will be corrected.” 

Meanwhile, former Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said he was disturbed by recent claims about himself on social media and from inside the party, in response to which Yıldırım reportedly said “necessary warnings have been made.” 

The AKP’s long-time Ankara mayor, Melih Gökçek, recently raised eyebrows by claiming that Arınç was in line to become prime minister in the aftermath of a coup.

Arınç categorically denied the claim and told reporters after the March 20 meeting that it was “beneficial,” adding simply: “See you after April 17.”

The referendum on shifting Turkey to a presidential system will be held on April 16. 

At the meeting, Yıldırım reportedly said he disagreed with Sait Yazıcıoğlu, a former MP and head of the Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet), who said “no” votes were ahead in polling in Istanbul. Yıldırım told attendees that “yes” votes across the country were above 50 percent and were on rising. 

The prime minister also called on attendees to go into the field to campaign in the referendum, regardless of their current party status. 

Former President Abdullah Gül and former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu were not present at the meeting, despite being invited. Neither Gül nor Davutoğlu have expressed an opinion on the charter changes up to now. 

Former EU Minister Egemen Bağış, who was abroad, was also absent from the meeting, which lasted nearly four hours.