Erdoğan has to talk to Gül once again

Erdoğan has to talk to Gül once again

Yet another referendum, as the government tries to cool down the economy? And at a time when the Syrian crisis has implications for domestic politics and the Kurdish problem is heading for a crossroads? That was something Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan had in mind when he proposed holding the local elections earlier: on October 27, 2013, instead of March 30, 2014.

The ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AK Parti) 325 votes were not enough to overcome the 367 (two-thirds majority of the 550-seat Turkish Parliament) threshold. But 50 votes from the ready-to-cooperate opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) could secure that.

Erdoğan wanted to have the locals in 2013 mainly in order to have more time and room to maneuver for the presidential elections, set to take place most likely on August 24, 2014. According to Erdoğan’s original game plan, he was to be a candidate, and by receiving 50 percent of the vote, plus one, he would go up to the Presidential Palace on top of Çankaya Hill in Ankara to replace Abdullah Gül. For that purpose, the AK Parti passed a law through Parliament suggesting that Gül could not be a candidate for a second time after completing his seven-year term. But a Constitutional Court decision upon an objection from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) enabling a second-term candidacy for Gül was a game changer. It was then that Erdoğan decided to hold the local elections earlier. By doing that he would be able to see whether Gül wanted to be a candidate, and take his own position accordingly; if Gül wants to be a candidate, Erdoğan could well change the Constitution to give the presidency only symbolic value; perhaps with the help of the MHP again.

The calculation did not prove correct in Parliament on the evening of October 12. Some deputies from both parties did not turn up for the last round of voting and the magic number of 367 was missed by 7 votes. There isn’t sufficient evidence to speculate on a crack within the AK Parti. Nevertheless, the file is on Gül’s desk now. Gül has 15 days to approve or reject the amendment. If he wants to use that time in full, the deadline to avoid the one-year ban on the implementation of new legislation effecting elections, Oct. 27, will pass; and Erdoğan’s plan to hold the election earlier will fail. If he rejects it sooner, there will be a chance for the AK Parti-MHP coalition to vote on it again before Oct. 27. If Gül approves it, there will be a referendum on the legislation.

And MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli said on Sunday that he is against “forcing the people to a referendum,” and if it is not possible to pass the change without it, his party would rather stick with the original date.

It is all about the presidency. Gül made it clear earlier that he wants to talk about the issue with Erdoğan, who has said nothing about it so far. But it seems that more reasons are piling up for Erdoğan to discuss with Gül their own and the country’s future.