Can this charter proposal get a majority vote in parliament?
Although all of parliament went to recess following lengthy budget talks, the Constitutional Commission is continuing its work on the proposed constitutional amendments in a bid to expedite the voting process in the legislature. Despite tense commission sessions, three of 21 articles had been approved as of late afternoon on Dec. 27 with expectations that the package will be submitted to the General Assembly by mid-January 2017.
Ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) officials plan to vote on the constitutional amendment package at the end of January or in early February. There are even those who believe that the referendum could be held on April 2, 2017.
However, before being able to secure a referendum date, the AKP and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leaders must garner at least 330 votes in parliament to take the package to a popular vote.
Here is how it looks as of Dec. 27: The AKP has 317 seats but as Parliamentary Speaker İsmail Kahraman can’t vote, it can garner 316 votes if there are no defectors in the ruling party. The MHP, however, has 39 lawmakers and six of them have already announced that they will vote against the package. This shows that the AKP-MHP partnership has 349 potential votes in the parliamentary vote, just 19 more than required majority to take the package to a referendum.
AKP officials argue their group will vote in full in favor of the proposals and also claim that there will be some Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmakers who join them as well. Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım held several meetings with his lawmakers throughout the process in a bid to listen to their concerns and address them so as to avoid any defections within his group.
On the MHP’s side, however, chair Devlet Bahçeli is very confident that there will be a full vote for the package from his party. But rumors in Ankara say there are more MHP lawmakers who are very disturbed by the package and that they could vote against the package. There is speculation that the MHP’s provincial organizations and party grassroots are uneasy with Bahçeli’s full alignment with the AKP whose aim is to change the system in a way to empower President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s one-man rule.
In-house opposition in the MHP is working hard to organize massive demonstrations in the new year, especially before key votes in parliament and during the referendum, if the package receives a majority vote.
CHP lawmakers are also trying to urge MHP colleagues that their vote will change the regime set by the founder of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, which would take the country toward a division in the future. It’s certain that pressure on MHP lawmakers will increase as the process is taken to the General Assembly.
The package will likely be narrowly approved or narrowly disapproved in General Assembly voting. But it’s generally believed that the package will pass the referendum if parliamentary approval is secured.