A hot political season begins in Turkey
After more than two and a half months, the Turkish Parliament will resume its works in the legislative year starting from Oct. 1. The last two years could be described as the least active period for the Turkish parliament whose works have been suspended due to the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2018 and local elections in 2019. It will, therefore, deal with many pending key issues, but the priority seems to be given to the judicial reform package.
In line with a roadmap announced as part of the judicial reform strategy late May 2019, the government has drafted two reform packages. The first draft package has already been submitted to the opposition parties before the formal deliberations start at the General Assembly.
As this column detailed, the objective of the first package is to expand the freedom of expression, although the opposition parties have found amendments insufficient to this end.
Although its initial assessment on the package is not positive, the head of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has instructed his parliamentary group to engage with the ruling party and contribute as much as possible in regards to the judicial package. This also reveals something about the strategy of the opposition alliance in the new legislative year. They will follow a constructive path when it comes to issues that would serve the interest of the nation.
The second package on justice reform will likely be more controversial. It is expected to amend the law on the execution of sentences in line with the demands of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). The opposition alliance has already characterized the move as “amnesty law,” which will release tens of thousands criminals from the prison.
With the parliament convening, the political parties have intensified their preparations for the new political era. Both the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the CHP will hold a three-day camp in the first weekend of October with the participation of all lawmakers and senior party officials.
Eventually, eyes will be on the AKP in this new period as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had implied that a reshuffle at the party brass and the cabinet would be likely. However, according to senior party officials, Erdoğan will not rush for a change at this point.
First, he does not want to give the impression that his government has failed to deliver under the executive-presidential system. That would be regarded not only as the failure of his government but also the government system. Instead, he is expected to announce some minor changes within the system in a bid to make it more efficient.
The second reason is related with the changing political landscape after Ahmet Davutoğlu and Ali Babacan have expressed their intentions to form separate political parties before the end of this year. Erdoğan would prefer to see what these political parties will look like before he would opt for changes at the AKP. The fact that the AKP plans to hold its extraordinary convention next year means Erdoğan has plenty of time before mulling over who to appoint as the new AKP brass.
For many in Ankara, the same applies for the cabinet. It won’t be a surprise if Erdoğan would not touch his ministers before they could have their budgets approved at parliament. If this assumption is proven to be right, any cabinet reshuffle before 2020 should not be expected. But, on the other hand, it’s no longer a secret that some prominent cabinet members are in fierce clashes with each other. Erdoğan seems to be able to contain it so far. Time will show how long it’s sustainable.
This new era will probably observe the birth of two fresh political parties by Davutoğlu and Babacan, two senior former AKP officials. Both men are expected to unveil their programs, their cadres and roadmaps in the coming months with hopes to attract the attention of the public opinion. It will be worth seeing whether they will be able to change the political landscape.
Having said this, it should not be thought that Erdoğan will devote more time to the domestic front. He will continue to prioritize the security and foreign policy matters in this new era as he needs a continued consolidation of the popular support.
That’s why a probable unilateral action into northeastern Syria –although on a limited scale- would be a strong option on his table, despite the objections of the United States.