Leaders in tense row over charter changes
ANKARAThe leaders of the four parties in Turkey’s parliament have argued over the controversial system change that will replace the legislative system with an executive presidency, trading barbs during a special session of parliament to mark April 23, the 97th anniversary of the founding of the body.
Main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım began quarreling after the former harshly slammed the constitutional amendments, which were passed in a disputed referendum on April 16, on the grounds that they weaken the parliament’s checks and balances and that they would usher in one-man rule. Parliamentary Speaker İsmail Kahraman and Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ were also involved in the argument.
“With the referendum [that used invalid ballots], we will not even be able to ask an oral question to a minister from this very rostrum. Even if we would, the minister would not stoop to answer from this chair. I would like everybody who has a conscience to hear this picture,” Republican People’s Party (CHP) head Kılıçdaroğlu told lawmakers.
Criticizing the constitutional amendment for reducing the auditing authorities of the parliament, Kılıçdaroğlu said the system change would allow the president to annul the parliament.
“I know what I said has disturbed you. I know that you have a guilty conscience,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, adding that the system change being ushered in by the constitutional amendment undermines the manifestation of the public’s will in parliament.
“If there is a public will, it had been manifested here. No office, no position, no person and no class can annul the parliament. Period. I have to respect this parliament’s reputation. I have to respect the public will. History will never forget those who granted authority to transfer public sovereignty to one person,” Kılıçdaroğlu said amid fierce objections from ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) seats.
Kılıçdaroğlu also addressed Kahraman, saying the amendments would allow the president to appoint vice presidents who will represent the president instead of the parliamentary speaker in the event that the president will not be able to fulfil his duties.
“It is not an understanding that we can deem democratic even if for one day, one minute or one second,” he added.
‘YSK breaching laws’
“I am saddened to say that today, the parliament has lost its reputation so much that even the Supreme Board of Elections (YSK) has legalized a situation in which the very laws that the parliament legislated are not followed, legitimizing unlawfulness. It is very dramatic that a parliament has become so destitute,” he said, reiterating the opposition’s rejection of the electoral board’s ruling to deem unsealed ballot papers valid, a decision that might have swayed the vote from “no” to “yes.”
PM responds to Kılıçdaroğlu
Taking the floor to answer the accusations, Binali Yıldırım responded to Kılıçdaroğlu by defending the constitutional amendment.
“First of all, the leader of the opposition party has said that they do not find the fact of a vice president representing the president to be democratic. It exists in our current constitution. Mr. Numan Kurtulmuş, who was appointed as deputy prime minister, was not elected when he was appointed. And he represented the prime minister,” the PM said.
“The legitimacy will come from the president, who will be elected by the public,” he said.
“National sovereignty belongs unconditionally to the public and the ones who elect the president are the public itself,” he added.
“We have been saying this for a long time: There is no such thing as the annulment of the parliament. There is a mutual renovation of parliamentary and presidential elections,” Yıldrım said.
“The leader of the opposition party is still before April 16. The referendum was held and our public approved the new system change. Now we have to look at our future,” Yıldırım added.
Erdoğan: Build the future on peace
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also criticized the debate after the parliamentary session.
“Build on peace, not on debates,” Erdoğan told reporters outside parliament after the argument.
MHP indirectly attacks at CHP
Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli noted that the Turkish people voted in favor of changes to the governing system in the referendum, indirectly calling on the CHP “not to instigate a crisis.”
“Nobody should look to the streets or even think about it. The Republic of Turkey was not founded in the streets and will not be left to the streets,” Bahçeli said, indirectly slamming the CHP who earlier said it was the people’s right to protest the referendum results.
“The people went to the polls on April 16 and voted in favor of the changes. This is a turning point. The result is binding and legal for everyone,” he added.
Release our co-leaders: HDP
Ahmet Yıldırım, who spoke on behalf of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) as the party’s co-leaders, Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, who have been under arrest since November 2016, underlined that the continued imprisonment of the two co-leaders and a dozen other HDP lawmakers is a clear example of a lack of the rule of law and a breach of the principle of the superiority of the popular will.
“The continuation of this unlawful situation is no doubt a blow to Turkey’s future as well as its image in the world. These politically motivated arrests should be ended,” Ahmet Yıldırım said in an address to parliament.
“We do not deserve this continued chaotic situation.”
Criticizing the government for not finishing a peace process aimed at ending the decades-old Kurdish question, Yıldırım said the failed coup attempt in 2016 came as a result of the government’s decision to re-launch security measures.
“The ending of the peace process brought about a dark period in which July 15 coup attempt also took place,” he added.