I’ll return to AKP if ‘yes’ votes prevail in referendum: President Erdoğan

I’ll return to AKP if ‘yes’ votes prevail in referendum: President Erdoğan

Vahap Munyar – RIYADH
I’ll return to AKP if ‘yes’ votes prevail in referendum: President Erdoğan President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said he will return to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) if the “yes” side prevails in the upcoming referendum that will decide whether the current parliamentary system should be shifted to an executive presidency.

“When the ‘yes’ votes emerge from the referendum, an opportunity for me to register with the party [again] will be born,” Erdoğan told journalists in a plane upon his return from official visits to Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. 

Turkey will have two years to shift to the presidential system if the charter amendments are accepted in the referendum on April 16. 

When asked whether he has a plan for the following two years, Erdoğan said the transition process should be prepared appropriately. 

“We need to prepare the transition process appropriately. For instance, the initial step for the transition to a president being a party member could be in that period. When the referendum results in a ‘yes’ vote, the opportunity for us to become party members will be born. There is no situation that would present an obstacle against it. The process to become party members will be able to start. Of course, this is a transition process aimed at 2019. It would be way more beneficial for our country to prepare for 2019 by evaluating the process this way,” he also said. 

Noting that the process was continuing without any obstacles in terms of governance, Erdoğan said preparing society for the system was of great significance through the legalization of the de facto situation, just as was proposed by opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli last year.

Erdoğan also said legal regulations would be implemented after the referendum before 2019.

“Of course there will be legal regulations. With these regulations, we will have the opportunity to get rid of the deadlocks wherever they are in a more relaxed way. The current government and the parliament will take the necessary steps regarding that point by being more sensitive and careful,” he said. 

During his interview, Erdoğan was asked what his plans were for the referendum campaign.

“Last week we visited [the Central Anatolian province of] Aksaray, and [the southern province of Mersin] before that. On Feb. 17, we will visit [the southern province of] Kahramanmaraş, on Feb. 18 we will visit [the eastern provinces of] Elazığ and Malatya and on Feb. 19 we will visit [the southeastern provinces of] Adıyaman and Gaziantep. We will continue our visits gradually. In addition, we have visits to foreign countries,” he said. 

Erdoğan said that they were planning to visit all 30 metropolises. 

“We want to carry out a double campaign with ourselves and the prime minister. Hopefully we will visit foreign countries. We will visit Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. Maybe we can visit one of the Scandinavian countries,” he said.

Moreover, Erdoğan also denied that the “no” side was facing any pressure in trying to conduct its campaign.
“I really have a hard time understanding this. Such a thing cannot happen. The pollsters are making their evaluations each night on TV. They are debating all the evaluations of the results of the polls with our writer friends there. There are and will be both ‘no’ and ‘yes’ voters. It wouldn’t be right to present the existence of those defending ‘yes’ as a pressure against those who will vote ‘no.’ Of course we will say what we think. Whether it is I, Bahçeli or the prime minister; we are using our democratic right, which is holy for us, and speak in the squares and on TV,” he said. 

“It would be wrong to prevent our right to do so with the excuse that it would pressure naysayers. We have no intention of applying pressure on ‘no’ voters. However, there is no goodness in saying ‘no,’ and we have the right to say that,” he added. 

Commenting on the debate on branding naysayers as “terrorists,” Erdoğan said they had to look at who is saying “no.”

“We need to look at who is saying ‘no’ for sure. Who is on the side of those saying ‘no?’ For instance the mountain [Kandil Mountains in northern Iraq known as the headquarters of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)] is saying ‘no.’ The HDP [Peoples’ Democratic Party], who entered the parliament with their support, is also saying ‘no.’ Is it possible to claim the opposite of the aforementioned facts? It’s not,” he also said. 

Erdoğan also commented on the lifting of lawmakers’ parliamentary immunities.

“What was the HDP saying in the streets? ‘Lift the immunities,’ they said. We lifted the immunities of the entire parliament. Some lawmakers went [to the police] and gave their testimonies courteously, and so the judiciary gave its judgement on them. However, some of them escaped. There are those who are abroad. What happened to those who were apprehended? Some of them were arrested and some of them are waiting for the judicial process. Now, for example, they are saying ‘no’ now,” he said. 

Turkey’s parliament passed a controversial bill on May 17, 2016, that would strip dozens of deputies of their parliamentary immunity, with 348 supporting the bill in the 550-seat parliament.

Erdoğan also said the main opposition Republican Peoples’ Party (CHP) was acting with the HDP, calling it consent for “evil.” 

“For me, the difference between saying ‘yes’ and ‘no’ is as clear as that. I believe that we should be sensitive on this point,” he added.