Latest political moves in Ankara
There are a number of interesting political moves in Ankara which are not given enough attention these days by observers, who are mostly occupied – naturally – with the Kurdish issue.
Actually, those moves are also related to the Turkish government’s initiative to find a political solution to the Kurdish problem, which yielded its first fruit on March 13 with the release of eight Turkish public servants who had been kidnapped and held hostage by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in their bases in Iraq for months. But they are also linked to two other issues, namely the debate on presidential powers and the efforts to write a new Constitution. Here are those moves that have occurred in the last week.
* President Abdullah Gül moved to appoint Emin Kuz, his chief legal advisor and deputy secretary-general of the Presidency, as a new member of the Constitutional Court. Kuz is believed to have had a share in Gül’s important decisions in the last five years, including the probe which resulted in the reopening of the murder case of Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink, and Gül’s veto on moving local elections up from 2014 to 2013, a move that was designed by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan to avoid having local and presidential elections in the same year. Gül recently said he was against any weakening of the role for the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors in the new Constitution, and this appointment could be a sign to endorse his position as a politician who doesn’t seem as willing to retire himself when his first term finishes next year.
* There were also two moves by Gen. Necdet Özel, the chief of General Staff. The first is his attendance at President Gül’s official lunch in honor of Jordanian King Abdullah II; Özel’s wife also became the first spouse of a top commander to do attend the luncheon during Gül’s term. That was a psychological position put forward by the soldiers to make a distinction between the secular and conservative way of lives symbolized in whether women wear headscarves. So that threshold was broken and demonstrated with Gül’s dinner. Özel also made it known via his legal adviser that he had told an Istanbul criminal court that he was ready to appear before the court and give his testimony regarding the ongoing “Balyoz” (Sledgehammer) case in which hundreds of military people were sentenced to imprisonment, while some are still being tried in the Ergenekon cases on charges of conspiring against the government. That move is like a call for help to the government to have the trials of military personnel completed as soon as possible.
* There was also a move by Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek to ask the members of the Constitutional Reconciliation Commission in the Parliament to hurry up in order not to waste away the achievements so far, which could result in producing no change to the current charter. The current Constitution splits the executive power into two between the president and the government in Article 8, gives incredible powers to the president even though no president, even the military-origin one, Kenan Evren – who had brought them in in the form of Article 104 – dared to use them and suggests no responsibility because of all the executive activities in Article 105. But that had been designed for the president elected by the Parliament, and Çiçek is worried that there might be a conflict of power between the prime minister and the president elected by the popular vote for the first time in 2014.
That could practically weaken the role of Parliament. Moreover, the presidential debate could damage the Kurdish initiative since there is a fierce debate behind closed doors about the definition of citizenship and how and whether to use the word “Turk” or “Kurd.”
* Then there was Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), who had a five-hour meeting with his predecessor, Deniz Baykal. It was not only aimed at providing a clear stance for the CHP on critical issues like the Kurdish issue, or the presidency, or the Constitution, but also an attempt to find ways to explore any possibilities to effect a CHP contribution to those issues as a balancing factor. Because it not a secret in Ankara political corridors that the studies carried out within the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) suggests that the most suitable partner that could provide the utmost popular consent to possible solutions in those fields is the CHP, as they would together have the combined support of nearly three of every four voters in the country. Perhaps a one-on-one meeting between Kılıçdaroğlu and Erdoğan, like the one between Baykal and Erdoğan some 10 years ago, could make things much easier for Turkey.
* There is another move, which cannot actually be called a move but a happenstance. The flu that gripped Erdoğan at such a time and tied him to his bed came at a time in which the critical political atmosphere did not need any sharp statements. Like the light coronary situation of Selahattin Demirtaş, the co-chairman of the Kurdish problem focused Peace and Democracy Party (BDP).
Politics has its own dynamics which are even helped by the sufferings of its actors from time to time.
But those moves might play a role in the political developments in Turkey in the next few weeks.