Is an AKP-CHP deal on the horizon?

Is an AKP-CHP deal on the horizon?

When the meeting between Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and Republican People’s Party (CHP) head Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu came to an end, it was almost obvious that the talks in the main opposition leader’s office would bear fruit. They did, according to separate statements from both parties after the 2.5 hour meeting. As a result the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) and the CHP agreed on the need of a “more democratic and civilian-minded” constitution to replace the current one, which was written after the military coup on Sept. 12, 1980.

“We agreed to sift out the remnants of the Sept. 12 regime from our constitution” was a sentence used separately both by Ömer Çelik, the AK Parti spokesperson, and by Haluk Koç, the CHP spokesperson.

They also agreed on a number of other topics, such as the need for a series of European Union harmonization reforms, but the main topic, like the elephant in the room, still remained untouched: Whether the new constitution would strengthen the parliamentary system in Turkey or lead to a shift to a presidential system.

The choice of President Tayyip Erdoğan and Davutoğlu is for a presidential shift and the choice of Kılıçdaroğlu is for a parliamentary system with a stronger separation of powers.

Both Davutoğlu and Kılıçdaroğlu had toned down their positions in their statements a day before the meeting on Dec. 29. Davutoğlu had said he respected Kılıçdaroğlu being keen on keeping the first four founding principles articles of the constitution unchanged and Kılıçdaroğlu had said he was willing to hear what kind of presidential system would be proposed by Davutoğlu before making any comments on it, since the CHP had given “priority to extending freedoms” and the independence of the courts.

When asked, the CHP’s Koç said they would comment when they hear from the AK Parti what kind of presidential system they proposed, while the AK Parti’s Çelik said the two parties would work to see whether their positions could be converged. So that means the AK Parti did not specify the details of the presidential system they wanted and the talks between the two would continue. Both parties see the glass as half full for the time being.  

Having canceled his meeting with Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş over his raising the issue of autonomy, or federalism, Davutoğlu is still going to meet Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) on Jan. 4, 2016, over the new constitution. It is not likely for the MHP to take part in a constitution commission together with the HDP anyway. And Çelik said yesterday that “open-ended” discussions could not bear any result.

The AK Parti and the CHP on the other hand had the experience of coalition talks for a month between the June 7 and Nov. 1 elections to explore the possibilities of a coalition government. The talks failed, but the two parties are not alien to each other’s positions already. If they manage to come to a compromise over a new constitution, their sum can easily pass the bill in parliament (with a public support of 75 percent) and the entire process could be over “in a month,” as Erdoğan had stated once. Perhaps it is too early to comment on that, but such a deal could not only decrease the political tension in Turkey, but also help boost the economy as well.