‘Multiple choice referendum’ for new charter

‘Multiple choice referendum’ for new charter

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
‘Multiple choice referendum’ for new charter

After completing his round of meetings with political party leaders, Parliamentary Speaker Çiçek has announced that the four-party Constitution Conciliation Commission will continue to work on writing the new charter. AA photo

Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek announced last week after meeting with political party leaders that the four-party Constitution Conciliation Commission will continue to work on writing a new Constitution. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who had earlier said his ruling party would go ahead with his own proposal if the commission fails to agree, offered to approve the 48 articles all parties have agreed on so far. Now I have information that goes beyond Erdoğan’s offer.

According to sources, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) will present a two-stage offer to the opposition parties in September or October. Until the fall, the charter commission will seek mutual agreement on a new charter beyond the 48 articles already agreed on. The articles agreed by all four parties will be approved in Parliament as a charter package. Some articles the parties fail to agree on will be asked to the people with a “multiple-choice referendum” formula.

The name behind the formula is Mustafa Şentop, a constitutional law professor, an AKP lawmaker and a member of Parliament’s Constitution Conciliation Commission.

According to the formula, the commission will work all summer and try to increase the number of new charter articles mutually agreed on. The efforts will focus on chapters such as “Basic Rights and Freedoms” and articles on judicial authority, social and economic rights and the like, since the parties do not much differ on their demands on such articles.

The articles on which the sides cannot agree on will be listed down.

Parliament, which is to convene on Oct. 1, will be called for an extraordinary meeting in September. A bill on the charter amendments, which will be offered by all four parties in Parliament and will include only the articles agreed on, will be approved in Parliament.

The remaining articles will be separately debated and some of them will be taken to referendum in a slightly different way. Instead of seeking public approval, the referendum will ask the voters to choose from two different options.

For example, in the article regarding citizenship, the AKP and the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), support a text that basically says “All those connected to the state through citizenship are the citizens of the Turkish Republic.” However, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) insist the article should include a reference to “Turkishness.” In a possible referendum, the two versions will be listed and the voters will be asked to choose one. As such, the parties’ “red lines” in some basic articles that block the charter writing process will be overcome with the will of the people.

The same scenario foresees that the AKP could drop its insistence on the presidential system in efforts to reach a consensus with the opposition parties.

The ruling party wants to complete the new charter works before 2014, which will host both the local and presidential elections. It seems like the AKP is favoring a charter amendments package in cooperation with the opposition parties instead of a completely new charter. And the planned “multiple-choice referendum” in fall is becoming more possible every day.

An ‘İmralı opening?’

The government may take steps this week on a “democracy package” as an answer to Kurds’ warning that the peace process could stall. An improvement of the conditions of jailed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan, who is serving a life sentence on İmralı island, could be a part of the government steps.

The possible improvements include better prison conditions for Öcalan, an easing of the ban on lawyers’ visits to the island, and an increase in the visits by Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) lawmakers. As whispers go in Ankara, the government is also considering allowing a group of independent doctors to examine Öcalan.

Who will be the CHP’s Istanbul candidate?

In mid-week, reports said Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Şafak Pavey would be her party’s choice to run for Istanbul mayor’s post in March 2014. However, Pavey was quick to dismiss the idea. There are three names CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu is considering for the post, which he wants to win. One of them is Şişli Mayor Mustafa Sarıgül, while the other one is CHP deputy leader Gürsel Tekin. The third choice is a surprise name, who is not a politician but is famous and popular among the public. We will know in September who Kılıçdaroğlu will choose.