Opposition angry over charter deadline remark

Opposition angry over charter deadline remark

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Opposition angry over charter deadline remark

Parliament’s Constitution Conciliation Commission last week decided to suspend the debate over the presidential system due to the AKP’s insistence. Daily News Photo

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has given a clear warning to Parliament’s Constitution Conciliation Commission about the absence of notable progress, repeating an end-of-the-year deadline set by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The AKP’s proposal for a final decision on the future of the commission in January has drawn swift reaction both from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

“The ruling party should not look for excuses to run away,” MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli said at a meeting with press on Dec. 13. Noting that the commission had completed significant work, he said the ruling party’s setting deadlines was meant to deceive public opinion.

“Instead of saying these things, it would be useful to say ‘I left the table and when I leave the table this delegation is dissolved,’ that would be useful in telling the truth to the nation,” Bahçeli said.

Asked about the AKP’s reported plans to take a partial constitutional amendment to referendum to adopt a presidential system, Bahçeli categorically denied it.

“Either the commission works properly, or the MHP doesn’t make any contribution to a game of change other than that,” he said.

“We should meet in January and make a decision about the upcoming process,” Mustafa Şentop, representing the AKP at the commission, told reporters late on Dec. 12. “When we meet in January, if we maintain that the commission’s work is likely to make progress within a reasonable time, then let’s continue. But if not, there is no meaning in continuing at this commission. This commission should not continue just because the opposition wants to and just to satisfy their aspirations.”
On Oct. 2 Erdoğan set a strict deadline for Parliament’s Constitution Conciliation Commission’s work, saying a charter had to be drafted with opposition help by the end of the year or the AKP would strike out to produce the charter alone. His remarks were seen by the opposition parties as both interference and an imposition.

Şentop also said the AKP would not block the commission’s work by insisting on its proposal for a presidential system if full agreement was reached on the other articles.

Presidential system

CHP’s Atilla Kart, who is representing his party at the commission, said on Dec. 13 that the AKP’s latest warning was related to its insistence on a presidential system.

“This is actually a signal of leaving the table. It is also a confession of the AKP’s insincerity from the very beginning concerning the notion of reconciliation. We reckon that the AKP may seek cooperation with other parties than us in time,” Kart said.

As the AKP and the three opposition parties – CHP, MHP and the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), who all favor the parliamentary system – were unable to reconcile their differences due to the AKP’s insistence on a presidential system, the commission last week decided to suspend the debate over the presidential system for a while.

“If the AKP seeks bilateral intra-party cooperation by acting irresponsibly, then we would not have a Constitution that meets society’s needs,” Kart said.

Kart’s remarks were actually a clear reference to what Erdoğan was quoted as saying in early November.

“If the CHP comes, we will do it with the CHP; and if the MHP comes, we will do it with them. What matters is achieving maximum common ground. So let [the new Constitution] not be a ragtag [document], let it be a [completely] new Constitution,” Erdoğan was quoted as saying at the time.