Why is the CHP steering clear of charter efforts?

Why is the CHP steering clear of charter efforts?

Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said on Nov. 11 that his ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) and the opposition National Movement Party (MHP) would be drafting changes to the constitution for a shift to a presidential system – if God wills, he added.

The statement came after a meeting between PM Yıldırım and MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli on Nov. 10, after which Bahçeli said there was no final agreement yet but that the meeting was positive and promising.

Despite his remark that the AK Parti and MHP were very close to an agreement, the PM keeps calling on the social democratic main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) to join the effort. Actually, both Yıldırım’s and Bahçeli’s remarks have seemingly forced the CHP into a dilemma.

The dilemma for CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu is either to make it a three-party group and try to explain why it is collaborating on a presidential system to its voters or stay out and be ready to be attacked more by both the AK Party and the MHP for taking sides with the “terrorists.” In rhetoric of both parties, the CHP’s questioning of the arrest of MPs from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), including its co-chairs, is enough nowadays to side with the “terrorists.” In fury, Kılıçdaroğlu challenged the Yıldırım government to sue him on charges of terrorism and accused the AK Parti of paving the way for acts of terror by the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Fethullah Gülen network, which is accused by all of being behind the bloody military coup attempt of July 15.

This stance of Kılıçdaroğlu is actually a defensive one and shows that the Yıldırım-Bahçeli push, which will probably be approved by President Tayyip Erdoğan, has started to bear fruit. After all, a shift to an executive presidential shift is Erdoğan’s idea.

Following Yıldırım’s latest call on the CHP, party spokeswoman Selin Sayek Böke said they would “not be part of that game.” On the other hand, the CHP has silently convened a workshop to renew its policy on the new constitution over the weekend in Ankara. This shows that Kılıçdaroğlu wants to see more details even if they end up categorically rejecting a shift to a presidential system from the current parliamentarian one.
That brings the CHP to another junction.

The CHP could stay out of the constitutional work and nervously watch the AK Parti-MHP draft being approved in parliament and go to a referendum. It is likely that the draft will be approved by the people as well in a referendum, and any referendum in any country is likely to end with approval in today’s world, as the Brexit one demonstrated a short while ago.

Or the CHP could join the work and press for more checks and balances, more court independence and more rights and freedoms, which would be to the benefit of all and then quit if the other two do not agree.

It is not a rule of thumb that a presidential system is anti-democratic and a parliamentarian one is democratic, there are good and bad examples for both. It all depends how it is designed in the first place, and the CHP might have a positive contribution regarding that.