President should have links to party in new constitution: Erdoğan
ANKARAThe president should retain links with his political party because an impartial head of state causes “weakness in legislative activities,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said, speaking after the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) delivered its draft for a new constitution to the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
“We will make our assessment after we have examined the text in detail. But my opinion is that if a president is disconnected from his party there will be further weakness in political activities in the country,” Erdoğan said on Nov. 16 at a press conference before leaving for an official visit to Pakistan.
Turkey’s current constitution obliges the president to cut links to their political party as soon as they are elected head of state, in line with the principle of impartiality.
Erdoğan’s comments come amid discussion of the scope of constitutional amendments, after the AKP officially conveyed its draft to the MHP on Nov. 16.
MHP head Devlet Bahçeli said the draft includes a shift to the presidential system but only covers partial amendments focused on “eliminating a de facto imposition,” addressing concerns that he said prompted him to propose bringing constitutional amendments to a public vote on Oct. 11. Bahçeli had said Erdoğan was violating the constitution by acting against the rule of impartiality and this de facto situation should be legalized.
Erdoğan also argued that the president should not be considered “impartial” in the political sense in the new constitution, in order to eliminate the “de facto presidency.”
“If they are taking such a step [the address the situation] that Mr. Bahçeli considers a ‘de facto presidency’ … then it would not be right to unlink the president’s relations to their party,” he said.
“It would strengthen both the president and the party he is a member of if he manages the process and walks this path with the party. More determined and coordinated steps could be taken,” he added.
The AKP’s draft charter is composed of 29 articles, Hürriyet reported on Nov. 16, including provisional ones, which amount to turning the head of state into an executive president. It stipulates a one-chamber parliament and preserves Turkey’s unitary system. The president will be elected for a maximum two terms of five years. It also introduces the option of two vice presidents, in the event that the MHP favors this.
Erdoğan said he would approve both the executive presidency and the presidency as it is stipulated in the draft, adding that what is most important is the final draft that will be presented to the people.
“We will see whether the draft changes can be passed by parliament with 367 votes, or whether it will be brought to a referendum. In either case, my people will make the decision,” he added.
With 316 seats in parliament, the AKP needs at least 14 additional votes in parliamentary voting to be able to bring a constitutional draft to a referendum. Some 367 votes are needed to pass the constitutional amendment directly without a referendum, but AKP officials have said they would like to hold a referendum in both cases.
Yıldırım: The draft will be brought to parliament in following days
Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım also said preparations for the constitutional draft are almost complete and it would soon to be presented to parliament.
“We are about to finish our preparations [on the constitutional draft]. In the coming days we will bring the subject to parliament,” Yıldırım said on Nov. 16.
He also pointed to the parliamentary commission to finalize the process, indicating that the government will seek mutual agreement with other parties.
“In our previous efforts to prepare the constitution, we allowed all parties to participate in the parliamentary commission with the same number of lawmakers, no matter how many seats they had in parliament. Our sincerity and determination on this subject continue. We continue to seek a mutual agreement basis with other parties,” Yıldırım said.
“After [the parliamentary process] the people will have the decision,” he added.
His comments came after main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu criticized moves to change the constitution, saying the AKP-drafted changes would shift Turkey to a “dictatorial” regime.
“The presidential system is about a regime discussion. You are changing the regime of the Republic of Turkey,” Kılıçdaroğlu said on Nov. 15.