Handicaps awaiting ruling party

Handicaps awaiting ruling party

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Handicaps awaiting ruling party

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan looks forward to being a president by changing the presidential system before the elections in August 2014. AA photo

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan looks forward to being a president that will have similar authorities with the U.S. presidential model, or being a “president belonging to a political party” by changing the presidential system before the elections in August 2014. The implementation of this demand, which Erdoğan has shared with the public many times, depends on a constitutional change.

Also, when the demands of Kurds are considered within the ongoing resolution process, such a reform becomes compulsory. Until 2015, the ruling party is expected to experience one possible referendum, four elections, the resolution process and the process of forming the new Constitution.

The plan A of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) is to change the Constitution by providing consensus among the four parties in the Parliament. Plan B, on the other hand, suggests holding a referendum for about 50 articles, including the article suggesting the model of “president belonging to a political party,” instead of making a brand-new Constitution. Plan C also suggests holding a referendum by taking the support of a party (probably the Peace and Democracy Party - BDP) for its own proposal. The last two options, however, have various obstacles.

The first of these problems is about “timing.” If conciliation is achieved, Turkey will face a constitutional referendum in fall 2013. At the end of this year, the works for the local elections in March 2014 will start. Also, the presidential elections will be held by August 2014. And the schedules for this election will be arranged 60 days before. Besides, general elections will be held in June 2015, and its schedule will be kicked off three months before the election. This means the works will be started during the first months of 2015. It is not a process that could be easily handled in many aspects, including its economy. A series of elections will follow each other with only a few months of intervals.

Another difficulty might arise on the interrelated subjects of the resolution process and the constitutional process. Arithmetic data suggests that it will not be possible to pass a new Constitution both introducing the AKP’s proposed presidential system and fulfilling the Kurds’ demands through Parliament. The AKP does not have the power to change the Constitution and hold a referendum by itself. The opposition parties, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), are not likely to form an alliance. If plan C is adopted and an alliance is made with the BDP, various problems may arise within the AKP.

The demands of the BDP could irritate the nationalist wing within the AKP. Also, since about 75 names in the AKP are to be subjected to the “three-term ban,” some contrarian votes within the AKP are highly expected. Even though it is being said that about 10 votes are expected from the CHP in secret ballots, the possible lack of votes in the AKP will hamper the new Constitution from passing through Parliament. The article about the new presidential system also might be omitted from the package.

Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek notes the possibility that a president elected by a popular vote and the prime minister, who is also elected by the people, might come up against each other.

Such a possibility may spoil Erdoğan’s 2014 plans. Or, an article that is essential for the BDP might not pass through Parliament according to design. It is known that the discussion regarding whether to exclude the expressions of “Turkish nation” and “Atatürk nationalism” from the new Constitution, the definitions of citizenship and secularism, the changes to the presidential system, freedom of thought and faith and other such subjects could create some anxieties in some groups. Possible deviations from these paths might also negatively affect the resolution process.

Delaying the new Constitution until 2015 and holding a referendum on about 50 articles also pose some handicaps, even though that would not be as hard as making a completely new Constitution. The BDP’s support has vital importance for that, as well.

Another risk for the referendum is whether the public will support it. It will present some reforms that could allure the masses. However, the discourse of the “AKP-BDP Constitution,” created by the opposition also poses some risks for nationalist and conservative groups. For the AKP, allying with the BDP has some pros and cons. It negotiated all the risks. A critical process has now begun.

Arrested deputies to be released?

Five deputies of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), two deputies from the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and one from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) are still under arrest. In a possible ballot for new Constitution, each vote will have great importance. All the calculations are made according to a possible Constitution being formed under an AKP-BDP alliance. The AKP has 327 seats in Parliament, while the BDP has 34 deputies, including the independent ones. And five of these 34 are currently in prison. The total number of the AKP and the BDP equals 356 in Parliament. When the five imprisoned deputies are added, it would reach 361. And when possible contrarian votes from the AKP are considered, five votes gains a vital importance. In light of these estimations, it is expected that the arrested deputies might be released before any voting.

Calculations for new Constitution

According to Article 175 of the current Constitution, a constitutional amendment proposed by between 330 and 367 seats shall be automatically submitted to referendum. If the figure is above 367, the amendment will be directly accepted. The latest speculation in Ankara suggests that AKP will first change this article with another package. According to rumors, the constitutional amendments will be approved with 330 votes, and thus the Justice and Development Party (AKP) could easily pass the new Constitution through Parliament since it has 327 seats in total. But I observed some leading figures of the AKP and inferred that they will not resort to this option unless they face extreme difficulties.