PM eyes key presidential ballot with new charter

PM eyes key presidential ballot with new charter

PM eyes key presidential ballot with new charter

DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan outlined a thorny calendar for the ongoing work of Parliament’s Constitution Conciliation Commission yesterday, setting their deadline as the end of 2012, while underlining the significance of the next presidential elections for his governing party.

“We haven’t tyrannized over anybody,” Erdoğan told his parliamentary group, referring to the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) majority in Parliament, and underlined that all four political parties were being represented by an equal number of deputies in Parliament’s Constitution Conciliation Commission.

“We wish making a new constitution all together as a nation. We are determined to continue this work in Parliament without leaving the table. The duration is obvious, either it is done by the end of the year or from now on we will say ‘nobody should keep us busy,’ and we will continue on our path,” Erdoğan said.

“We will never be the party who leaves the table. Even if we remain on our own at that table, we will exert our best effort.”

In early September Erdoğan told AKP deputies how they had agreed with the MHP on moving the local elections to an earlier date. “For changes to the Constitution, the combined number of us and the MHP [Nationalist Movement Party] is enough.”

The AKP has 326 seats and the MHP has 51 seats in Parliament, adding up to 377. For constitutional changes to be approved without a referendum, a total of 367 is adequate.

At the time, Erdoğan’s words were interpreted as a preparation for writing the new constitution with the MHP alone.

Erdoğan told his parliamentary group yesterday that the local elections planned for October 2013, the presidential elections in August 2014 and the parliamentary elections in June 2015 are the three thresholds in front of the AKP.

In August 2014, the Turkish people will for the first time directly elect their president, and this change, introduced by the governing party, is a significant step toward democratization, Erdoğan said.
“In this regard, we will really experience a presidential election which has historic importance. As the AK Party [AKP], we will leave this process behind in the most ideal way and we will again show a successful performance by putting our signature under ‘firsts.’”

Imposition and interference

According to main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) Atilla Kart, a member of the commission, Erdoğan’s remarks demonstrate his interference in the commission’s work.

“This is an intervention in the commission,” Kart told the Hürriyet Daily News, adding that finalizing work is related to the commission’s performance. “The intervention of the prime minister is a confession showing his insincerity and dishonesty in regards to the constitution-making process. We are sincere, and we really want to produce a constitution that will embrace all society,” Kart said.

Oktay Öztürk of the MHP, who represents his party in the commission, believes that Erdoğan had had the idea to set such a deadline in mind for a long time.

“It is obvious that the prime minister is wasting the nation’s time. He will impose the constitution that he had locked up in the safe.” Öztürk speculated that Erdoğan will include only the articles on which there has been full agreement in the constitution he will impose.

Altan Tan of the BDP, who is also a member of the commission, argued that the prime minister from the very beginning aspired to a constitution that would suit to him.

“He does not seek an alliance in accordance with democratic standards. He wants to produce a constitution that will suit his interests, one that will make him president. He has the majority. There is no way to prepare a constitution without their ‘yes,’ so what kind of alliance are you looking for?” Tan said. He admitted that they had identified a deadline but underlined that it was not a definite one. “This is not a very detailed timetable. If you are looking for conciliation, then it may take longer.”

A process in parenthesis

The deadline set by Erdoğan had actually been set as a “target” in the 15-article agreement text signed by the AKP, CHP, MHP and Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) when they began work on Oct. 19, 2011 with three deputies from each of the four parties presided over by Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek.

Article 11 of the text, which plans the duration of work and its phases, says that “The commission aims to finalize its work by the end of 2012,” while Çiçek had said they “aimed at finalizing [it] in a reasonable time.”

After collecting ideas from different segments of society for the first six months, the commission began drafting content May 1.

The commission has discussed almost 40 articles as part of the chapter on “fundamental rights and freedoms.” Full agreement was maintained on the articles covering “human honor and dignity” and on the quality and integrity of fundamental rights and freedoms.

All the other articles have been written with red lines from the four parties, in other words, with reservations and parentheses.