Turkey’s parliament speaker preparing for new charter talks

Turkey’s parliament speaker preparing for new charter talks

Turkey’s parliament speaker preparing for new charter talks

Turkish Parliament Speaker İsmail Kahraman speaks at a press conference on Jan. 8, 2016. AA Photo

Turkish Parliament Speaker İsmail Kahraman said on Jan. 8 he would head the conciliation commission and send letters to party leaders, foreseeing that a new constitution would likely be issued.

“I will head the conciliation commission and the commission will determine its working principles itself. I think that a new constitution will be issued,” said Kahraman during a press conference, adding he would send letters to the leaders of all four parties in the Turkish parliament.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s political parties could complete work on efforts to draft a new constitution within six months, according to Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, though President Tayyip Erdoğan’s insistence on a shift to presidential system could yet hinder a deal.

“I am of the view that a period of six months will be enough [for the commission to complete its work],” Davutoğlu told a news conference late on Jan. 6 after discussing the issue with Kahraman. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), co-founded by Erdoğan, has put a new constitution at the heart of its agenda since winning the Nov. 1, 2015, election. Two opposition parties agreed to join a cross-party commission but have been opposed to the replacement of the country’s parliamentary democracy with a full-blown presidential system.
Opposition parties have agreed on the need to replace the current constitution, born of a 1980 coup and still bearing the stamp of its military authors, in a country which is a potential candidate for European Union membership, but they have not lent support to proposals from the ruling party to entirely overhaul what is now a largely ceremonial presidency. A similar cross-party panel attempted for two years to reconcile differences and agreed on some 60 article changes before giving up in late 2013 due to disagreements on issues such as the definition of citizenship and the protection of religious freedoms.

The AKP holds 317 of the 550 seats in parliament, but would need 330 votes to take a new constitution to a referendum and 367 seats to change it directly, meaning it is dependent on winning support from the opposition.