President Erdoğan refuses to rule out early election as option
ANKARAAn early election could be considered if parliament becomes blocked, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said after opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli initiated a debate on an early election over controversial constitutional amendments.
“We have never thought the early election would be convenient. However, if they [the opposition] make the parliament unworkable, it is not something that we would rule out,” Erdoğan told reporters on Jan. 13, criticizing the opposition for creating a brawl in the parliament as a protest during discussions on the constitutional amendment charter.
“I think that this will be over within this week and [the matter] will be posed to the original authority; the people are entitled to a final decision,” he said.
Erdoğan also said the articles of the charter had received more than 340 votes so far and that a referendum was likely.
His comments came after Bahçeli raised the issue, indicating that an early election would be held if the charter package was not approved by parliament.
“If [the constitutional amendment proposal is not passed in parliament], the legislature will be unable to work and grounds for parliament to work will be sought, meaning the will of the public will be solicited,” Bahçeli told reporters on Jan. 11.
Reiterating Bahçeli’s comments, ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Istanbul lawmaker Mustafa Şentop said early elections would be required if charter changes were not passed by the parliament.
“If the text is not passed by the general assembly, then let’s say that nobody wants an election but that Turkey would be obliged to go to an election,” Şentop said Jan. 12.
‘The early election is a threat for possible defections’
Arguing that the AKP-MHP block, which has prepared the charter with mutual efforts, is speculating about an early election in order to intimidate lawmakers to vote in favor of the constitutional amendment, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) said they would favor an election instead of “a regime change.”
“I will condemn the deputy, if there is one, who would knuckle under the threat of an early election in order to produce support for this project [of constitutional amendment] which will drag the 90-year republic into danger,” CHP Antalya Lawmaker Deniz Baykal said Jan. 11 during discussions on the articles of the constitution.
Echoing Baykal’s criticism, CHP’s group deputy chairperson Özgür Özel declared that the CHP would favor an election if the parliament decides to take the decision.
“Instead of attempting such a regime change today, we as the CHP give full support for a decision of an early election that will be taken this evening,” Özel said during discussions on the articles of the constitutional amendment in parliament in a late-night session on Jan. 12.
Stating that he was speaking on behalf of CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, Özel said: “Bring it on.”
HDP dares: ‘Raise electoral threshold to 15 percent’
Noting that the ruling party was determined to make a regime change and would not risk an early election, HDP spokesperson Ayhan Bilgen also declared that the HDP favored an early election.
“No early election decision will be taken here [in parliament], but [we say that] we are in favor. You can even raise the electoral threshold to 15 percent,” Bilgen said in a press conference in parliament on Jan. 12.
“The 10 percent threshold was initially issued to prevent us from entering parliament anyways. We dare you; raise the threshold to 15 percent. We are aware that, because of the fact that some of the lawmakers know that they will not make it onto the list [if there will be an early election], the decision will not be approved even by a minimum of 276 votes,” he added.
“Under these circumstances, there will not be any decision in favor of an early election. Nobody should be afraid,” he added.
Former MHP lawmaker: ‘There will be an election in November’
Independent Lawmaker Yusuf Halaçoğlu, who is a former MHP lawmaker, said the ruling party was planning to hold an early election even if the referendum is granted by the parliament.
“Even if the constitution passes in the parliament with 330 votes, or even if it is approved in a referendum, the AKP will hold an early election,” Halaçoğlu told reporters in parliament along with the independent lawmaker Ümit Özdağ, who also previously resigned from the MHP, on Jan. 12.
“In November, Turkey will experience an election,” he added arguing that the constitutional amendment includes provincial regulations which indicate an executive transformation prior to the scheduled date of presidential elections.