Gül keeps pressing for a way out

Gül keeps pressing for a way out

Turkish President Abdullah Gül keeps pressing for a way out of the political crisis in the country despite the opposition’s refusal to keep cooperating on a constitutional change because government failed to withdraw a controversial draft to have more administration control over judiciary.

While explaining his “Things will go better” statement a day before, Gül told reporters on Jan. 17 he was referring to his impressions from a meeting with Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan about the possibility of a constitutional change for major issues, including the judiciary branch.

“I keep my hopes high” Gül said, “If the government makes a statement that it will not bring the draft to the General Assembly voting until the parties agree or disagree about a possible constitutional amendment package, then everyone can go its own way. I believe they can solve it.”

It seems the president had asked the prime minister to freeze the law change on the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) during their weekly meeting on Jan. 16 and at least did not get “no” as an answer. Earlier that day, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) said they would not go any further on constitutional talks, because Erdoğan keeps going on his plan for HSYK law. That is a reference to a meeting between Gül and CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu on Jan. 13, after which Kılıçdaroğlu said his party was ready to work with Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) on two conditions. The conditions were the withdrawal of the HSYK draft and lifting blocks on free investigations into corruption allegations, as the whole crisis was triggered by a graft probe started on Dec. 17, 2013.

The Kurdish problem focused Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) also supports talks on a constitutional amendment package, but AK Parti and BDP votes in Parliament are not enough to have a two-thirds majority that is needed to pass the changes without a referendum. CHP wants European Union and Council of Europe standards to be taken as a base, whereas Erdoğan says there isn’t one single standard for that in the EU system.

There are two reasons why Gül keeps pressing for an immediate way out of the crisis. The first is the extended row eroding the people’s already not so strong trust in courts and tends to politicize them further. The second is it attracts more criticism against Turkey from its U.S. and EU allies about the quality of democracy and economy here, since the independence and effectiveness of courts involve both. And Erdoğan is planning to go to Brussels on Jan. 21 for planned talks with top EU officials for the first time in five years.

There are two reasons why Erdoğan wants to rush the HSYK law and also keeps reshuffling prosecutors and policemen whom he believes are the sympathizers of Fethullah Gülen, a U.S.-resident moderate Islamist scholar, are behind the “plot” against his government. Erdoğan believes the Dec. 17 graft probe was only an excuse for a “coup attempt” by Gülenists as “tools of foreign forces” who do not want Turkey to prosper further and become a major power. And ahead of the March 30 local elections, he is afraid Gülen sympathizers in the police and judiciary branch, who had helped Erdoğan a lot during probes and court cases against allegedly conspiring groups within military, judiciary and bureaucracy between 2007-2012, could come up with new corruption allegations against AK Parti candidates to discredit them. Erdoğan claims Gülenists formed a “parallel” structure within the government structure.

A group of massive scale NGO’s led by Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu, the Chairman of Turkish Union of Chambers of Commerce (TOBB), issued a joint declaration on Dec. 21, saying the majority of the business community and the people are concerned of the allegations of corruption and “parallel” structures both.

If Gül’s optimism works, Turkey could really find a chance to enhance its problematic judicial branch with a constitutional change through this crisis. But the corruption probes, ongoing or blocked will still wait to be completed.