Erdoğan’s veto on filters and lawmaking processes

Erdoğan’s veto on filters and lawmaking processes

There are two major environmental issues that all of Turkey has been discussing for a long while. The first concerns faith in the government’s Canal Istanbul project, and the second one is the environmental damage given by the thermal plants.

Let’s begin with the second one: The parliamentary members from the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) had voted in favor of a motion that postponed the installation of filters in 15 thermal plants for two-and-a-half years although the deadline for it was Dec. 1.

Civil society activists, environmentalists, the opposition and ordinary citizens have strongly reacted against this delay. which would mean another concession to the businessmen running these plants at the expense of further polluting the air.

Widespread criticisms have resulted in the veto of the motion by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, satisfying the expectations of the public opinion. This is a very important and positive development in terms of addressing environmental concerns.

However, there is another angle to this development. It’s the first time that President Erdoğan vetoed a law passed by the votes of his own AKP lawmakers. This is rather interesting in the sense that President Erdoğan is at the same time the chairman of the AKP, a privilege he was given by the new executive-presidential system.

At a press conference before his departure to London for NATO summit, a reporter had asked whether President Erdoğan had conveyed his concerns over this bill to his lawmakers before it was approved.

“These same things were on our agenda in that period, too. We have always discussed it,” Erdoğan said, without directly answering the question.

It shows that this very controversial bill has not been discussed in detail in parliament and President Erdoğan had to use his veto power only after he has seen the growing public reaction.

A similar trend is occurring in the discussions over Canal Istanbul. The government has long been planning to create an artificial seaway linking the Black Sea with the Marmara Sea. It would reduce the naval traffic through the Bosphorus but at the same time, create new residential settlements along the canal.

Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu has described Canal Istanbul as murder because it would further weaken the infrastructure of Istanbul with 16 million people against a potential powerful earthquake.

Many environmentalists and scientists have also urged the government that priority should be given to precautions against earthquakes instead of investing billions of dollars into a controversial canal project.

Despite all these warnings, the government refrains from launching a scientific nationwide discussion for an unprejudiced conclusion on the matter. If this project will change history, as suggested by Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, doesn’t it deserve a full-fledge discussion with the participation of related parties?

Differently from the thermal plants, reversing the process would be very difficult in the case of Canal Istanbul once the project is launched and excavations for the canal begin.

Even these two environmental concerns openly reveal the fact that the current executive-presidential system obstructs substantial discussions on key national matters that would be enriched through input from experts and civil society.

That’s why, as suggested by the opposition, a rehabilitated parliamentary system that would function as an effective check-and-balance mechanism would be much better for the governance of Turkey. Turkey will better observe this need as more and more social, economic and environmental problems come to the surface in the coming period.