Parliament to make last-ditch charter bid

Parliament to make last-ditch charter bid

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Parliament to make last-ditch charter bid

Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek is likely to political ask party leaders to extend the mandate of the commission by up to three or four months. Daily News Photo

Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek was set to meet Turkey’s premier late Dec. 28 as part of a tour to meet the leaders of Turkey’s four main parties with the aim of reviving dwindling hopes of drafting a long-anticipated new Constitution despite a looming deadline.

Çiçek, who could seek to extend the drafting process by an extra three to four months, is embarking on his 11th-hour tour amid a fierce debate over the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) insistence on the adoption of the presidential system in the new Constitution.

In addition to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the speaker has requested appointments from Republican People’s Party (CHP) chief Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) head Devlet Bahçeli and Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş. He is scheduled to meet Bahçeli on Dec. 29.

Çiçek will inform the leaders about the works of the commission and the articles the four parties have already agreed on. According to the four-party agreement on the establishment of the Constitution Conciliation Commission, the inter-party panel should have concluded the writing process by the end of 2012. However, due to fierce debates and pointed disagreements over fundamental parts of the Constitution, the process has become bogged down and thrown off schedule.

The parliamentary speaker is likely to ask leaders to extend the mandate of the commission by up to three or four months, but the proposal is contingent on the approval of all leaders.

“The commission’s tenure is ending. The ball is now in the parliamentary speaker’s court. If he asks for an extension of three months to finalize the process and if our prime minister and other leaders also accept his demand, then this commission will continue to work,” Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç was quoted as saying by Anatolia news agency Dec. 28.

Erdoğan has criticized opposition parties for dragging their feet on the new charter and has also threatened the parties, saying the AKP could go its own way and try to attain the required majority in Parliament to take a self-written draft to a referendum. The AKP is just five seats short of 330 votes, the minimum number of deputies necessary to take a constitutional amendment to a popular vote.

One of the major issues that has hampered the drafting process is the AKP’s proposal to change the current parliamentary system into a presidential one. The ruling party has already submitted its own proposal for the presidential system, but it has been categorically rejected by the three other parties.

“As far as I know, none of these three parties have accepted our proposal. Therefore, we will have to put this issue aside as a four-party agreement is required. But the authorities of the next president who will be elected by popular vote could be discussed during the works of the panel,” Arınç said.

But according to Mustafa Elitaş, the deputy parliamentary group leader of the AKP, the opposition is using ongoing discussion about the presidential system as a pretext to abandon the commission work.

“The opposition is looking for a place to hide,” he said, rejecting the opposition’s claims that the AKP was imposing a presidential system upon Turkey.

The deputy leader of the CHP, Umut Oran, said they had difficulty understanding why the AKP was so insistent on adopting the presidential system even though none of the three opposition parties were in favor of the move.