Turkish Parliament debates end of recess
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
BDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş has attended previous İmralı meetings. DHA photoThe Parliament, according to house regulations, starts its annual recess on July 1 and reopens with a ceremony on October 1. However, because of the last minute omnibus bill the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) introduced, the general assembly started its recess on July 13 instead of July 1… And Ankara, after not less than a month after this, started discussing whether the Parliament should assemble on October 1 or at an earlier date.
The Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) which wanted the democratization package to be sent to the general assembly before the Parliament went into recess, continues to demand that the Parliament is convened at an earlier than scheduled date. Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), who met the BDP delegation at İmralı Island, set September 1 as a deadline for the democratization laws. He also wanted the completion of the withdrawal of the PKK simultaneously.
The government on the other hand has been preparing for the package for a long time. Alongside with legal changes in the package that is expected to be publicized in the coming days, there are also administrative arrangements that could be made with decisions of the government.
According to information leaked from discussions, there will not be only arrangements focusing on the solving of the Kurdish issue. For example, there will be some important amendments such as the arrangement introducing an increase for sex crimes. Let us share some arrangements that are expected to be contained in the package, the content and extent of which changes at every moment.
Within the framework of the Kurdish initiative, service in mother tongue in public offices such as the municipality, the tax office; the lifting of the obligation to name settlements in Turkish; restriction of the length of delay of meetings and gatherings granted to governors; prevention of sentencing of those who have not been in the management level of terror organizations and those who have not committed crimes with the crime of “being a member of terror organization” through making amendments in Turkish Penal Code (TCK) and the anti-terror law (TMK). (There is the risk of this change to be excluded in the package because of the reservation by security forces.) Because the AKP has not decided on this yet, it is not expected that the allowing election propaganda in mother tongue and the issue of constitutionally recognizing education in mother tongue to be included in the package. Other changes expected are financial aid from the treasury to those political parties who are under the threshold so that the BDP can also enjoy it, introducing of co-chairmanship system to parties, the law on protecting personal data and a regulation to prevent hate speech.
It is also expected that some policies directed toward the Alevis will be included in the package. Among them are for the cemevis (worship places for Alevis) to be made foundations so that land allocation for them becomes easier, to grant “center of belief” status to cemevis so that they can enjoy free water and electricity and to put Alevi religious leaders on salaries.
There are another two important issues: The unrestricted freedom to wear the headscarf in the public domain and the opening of the Halki Seminary. Preparations on both subjects have been completed and are both waiting for Erdoğan’s decision. There is also an expectation of a surprise about the opening of the Halki Seminary; however, there is nothing clear.
One of the crucial aspects of the package is about a change in the election system. Unless a last minute change is made, the 10 percent election threshold will be kept but there is a series of alternative formulas about the exemption of the threshold for any party that comes first in five constituencies. However, it is not yet known whether or not Erdoğan will accept this proposal…
The preparation, on the other hand, to transform into a “narrowed constituency system” in general elections is alone enough to stir politics. As a matter of fact, this system was used in the past (Özal era) and resulted in favor of the ruling party.
It is rumored that the AKP wants this system so that it obtains the majority to be able to change the Constitution alone (this figure is 367 in the current Constitution.). It will be Prime Minister Erdoğan indeed who makes the final decision in the option with alternatives.
Sarıgül causes split in CHP ranks
The prospect of Şişli Mayor Mustafa Sarıgül running for the Istanbul mayoralty has split the Republican People’s Party (CHP). Because Sarıgül has been expelled from the CHP, he can only return to the party by a decision of the Party Assembly. For this to happen, he has to apply. Because he has not been invited, he has not applied; because he has not applied, the Party Assembly cannot discuss the matter. But what if they do discuss the matter? The impression is that the decision will be made amid great debate. Even if CHP chief Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu wants him, those members within the Party Assembly who are ultranationalists and who have their own designs on the Istanbul chair do not view Sarıgül’s return positively
Public to join charter debate
The Constitution Conciliation Commission discussed for a long time about whether to start a popular debate about the articles that have been finalized, as well as those that have not yet been agreed upon. However, that decision was not made because of Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) opposition and the partial reluctance of the government. The head of the commission, Cemil Çiçek, stepped in at the last minute and provided consensus. After the Ramadan holiday, those 60 articles that the commission has agreed upon, plus other articles that the four parties have reservations on, will all be posted on Parliament’s website. Individuals, if they want to, will be able to post their opinions through the website. “This does not mean the commission is over,” Atilla Kart from the main opposition said.