Turkish PM calls on opposition not to 'lock up' deputies

Turkish PM calls on opposition not to 'lock up' deputies

ISTANBUL / ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish PM calls on opposition not to lock up deputies

PM Erdoğan says his party’s charter draft may get a ‘yes’ from the nation. AA photo

A ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) charter draft could receive parliamentary approval from renegades in the opposition if the latter’s leaders “did not lock up their lawmakers,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said earlier today.

“If the opposition parties do not lock themselves up – what I mean is that if they do not lock their lawmakers in the headquarters of their parties, then we can submit [a government-drafted charter] to Parliament,” Erdoğan said during an Istanbul press conference on his arrival to the city from a U.S. visit.

This might pave way for a public referendum, a confident Erdoğan said.

 “If that way is opened I believe that we can get a ‘yes’ from my people,” he said. “We have studies. We can clarify those studies and take such a step.”

The Constitution Conciliation Commission, a four-party body that is responsible for drafting the new Constitution, will carry on its work until July 1 despite little evidence that consensus is being achieved on several key issues.

Earlier in the day, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ told journalists in Ankara that a referendum would be necessary even if all four parties represented in Parliament agreed on the text.

“Under all circumstances, the new Constitution will go into force after a popular vote,” Bozdağ said.

President Abdullah Gül also expressed the need for a referendum in earlier remarks.

The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli said in an address to his group in Parliament today that his party was ready for any vote and would challenge the AKP in a local election, presidential election and a possible charter referendum that are all tentatively scheduled for 2014.

Recalling that Erdoğan said three polls could take place next year, Bahçeli said the timing of such an expression aimed at “sabotaging the change of the Constitution and putting pressure on the Conciliation Commission.”

“Still, the AKP has in mind to pass its charter with the BDP [Peace and Democracy Party] and take it to a referendum then. Everyone should know well today that MHP is ready for elections,” he said.

Withdraw from presidency system: BDP

BDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş, meanwhile, said in his group meeting that if a consensus was not achieved over a completely new charter, then his party would not shy away from cooperating with another party, implying that the BDP would approve an AKP-drafted charter.

Still, the AKP should first withdraw from insisting on a shift from the parliamentary democracy to presidential system, he said.

“We would not avoid discussing a temporary constitutional reform and not delay the demand for a new charter,” he said. “For this to happen, the AKP should withdraw from the presidency system insistence first. It should quit carrying this imposition to the agenda of the [Constitutional Conciliation] Commission.”

Demirtaş also said his party was ready for any elections.

Meanwhile, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu did not step back from heating up the discussion over suggestion that Erdoğan was a dictator on a par with Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.

“A dictator is what you call a person who wants to hold the authorities that he has in his Prime Ministry when he is elected a president. The presidency system will never pass [through Parliament] as long as the CHP is there.”

The group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats at the European Parliament reacted against Kılıçdaroğlu’s likening of Erdoğan to al-Assad last week.

The group’s leader, Hannes Swoboda, and Kılıçdaroğlu are at still odds, both claiming to have canceled a mutual meeting.