Referendum ‘not a very likely way out’

Referendum ‘not a very likely way out’

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Referendum ‘not a very likely way out’

Turksih code says municipalities can open up a public opinion poll only. Hürriyet photo

Although he himself a day ago offered to hold a referendum in order to decide on the fate of Istanbul’s Gezi Park, even Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan admitted on June 13 that referendum does not seem like a legally appropriate way to handle the issue.

The idea of a referendum was floated by the government following a meeting on the ongoing protests between Erdoğan and an 11-member delegation. Both the meeting with the activists, although the group’s ability to represent the protesters at the Gezi Park was debatable, and the referendum proposal were Erdoğan’s first concessions in the two-week-long protests against plans to build a replica of Ottoman-era military barracks in the park.

Speaking at a meeting with former mayors from his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) who had been heading municipalities that were closed upon the adoption of a law on metropolitan municipalities, Erdoğan referred to the meeting he had with the delegation on the Gezi protests, and noted that he had offered going to a plebiscite to decide the park’s future.

“A referendum can only be applied to constitutional changes according to our laws, however a plebiscite is an implementation that a municipality can do in a city. This is not something that can be done with the Higher Election Committee. There is no such situation either,” Erdoğan said.

Earlier in the day, the head of the Council of State made clear that such a referendum cannot go against a standing court order for the suspension of the project.

“I do not take this as a referendum,” Hüseyin Karakullukçu told reporters. “This is more like a vote to reveal the demands of the public. This cannot obviate the judiciary’s decision.” An Istanbul administrative court made a stay of execution decision and ruled May 31 for the suspension of the Artillery Barracks (Topçu Kışlası) project planned to be built on the site of Gezi Park.

Ahmet İyimaya of the AKP, who is also the chair of Parliament’s Justice Commission, underlined that a referendum about the environment has no constitutional and legal support. “Only a survey can be done by a decision to be made by the municipality council. But this won’t have a participation requirement. But for having a healthier and disciplined ground, a norm should be designed. A law could be added to the Law on Local Administrations,” İyimaya told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Former Justice Minister Hikmet Sami Türk noted that a referendum in the Constitution is stipulated for only constitutional changes. When the law is made, citizens who are over 18 years old can vote and the results may change depending on whether it is held in Istanbul in general or in Beyoğlu, Türk told the Hürriyet Daily News.