The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) will submit its own charter draft that includes a presidential system, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım has said, a day after the nationalist opposition party hinted that it could support a referendum to chance the system.
“The AKP group will submit [the constitution draft] to parliamentary approval, by preparing the draft with 60 articles that were agreed upon in particular and finalizing the missing articles. Either the parliament will approve [the draft] with a vote of 367 or 330, and then we will leave the decision to the public,” he said on Oct. 12.
Yıldırım’s statement came a day after Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli suggested the public should decide on the issue.
Bahçeli had criticized the AKP rule for violating constitution by creating a de facto presidential system, calling on the ruling party to either follow the constitution or seek methods to legalize the situation.
The four political parties represented in parliament commenced efforts to re-write the constitution after the 2011 elections but failed after two years of work over disagreements on the adoption of the presidential system. The process, however, resulted in agreement on 60 articles.
Another interparty commission was set up after the Nov. 1, 2015, election but was dissolved after three sessions. The AKP says Erdoğan’s election as president through a popular vote has already turned the system into a semi-presidential one but that there was a need to complete the process.
“We agree to Bahçeli’s call and we say that we will bring our constitutional proposal to parliament as soon as possible. Our proposal is a system which assures strong, stable and continuous power which works with all of its institutions in harmony,” Yıldırım said. Regarding Bahçeli’s statement on a presidential system as hopeful, he said, “Turkey has to turn the de facto situation into a legal situation.”
Governmental measures to restructure the military and other institution made the need for a new constitution apparent, the prime minister said. “In order to maintain Turkey’s stability, and its struggle against domestic and external threats by preserving its unity and solidarity, it has become an imperative to eliminate the deadlocks in the system. Because of that, a system change which will make the stability permanent, and will form a strong and continuous political will, is an essential need.”
Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ said he could not say when the process would begin. “I have no knowledge about a timetable. I would share it if I knew,” he said.
Opposition slams AKP-MHP bid
The new initiative by the government has received strong reaction from two opposition parties represented in parliament. The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) criticized the AKP and MHP’s joint proposition to attempt to change the system into a presidential one through a new constitution.
“The CHP will make every effort necessary to prolong the parliamentary system forever, and our parliament will not permit this [presidential system to change],” CHP deputy parliamentary group chairman Levent Gök said at a meeting on Oct. 12.
“We have to oppose the de facto situation which the president created. Mr. Bahçeli should stand against the de facto situation of the president instead of commencing a discussion on the presidential system,” Gök said.
“We show such a stand and invite the president to act within a constitutional framework.”
A similar reaction came from the HDP as well. İdris Baluken, the group deputy chairman of the HDP, assessed Bahçeli’s comments as evidence of an MHP-AKP coalition in a de facto transition to a dictatorial regime.
“Yesterday, the statement of Bahçeli indicates an evident partnership of the MHP and AKP on implementation of de facto dictatorial regime in Turkey,” he said in a press meeting.
Criticizing Erdoğan for creating a massive political crisis, the HDP parliamentary representative said the partnership between the MHP and AKP aimed to moderate possible public unrest against the ruling party. “In order to prevent the crisis from deepening, and to keep it manageable, we will see in the near future that Bahçeli and the MHP will make a pass and Erdoğan and AKP will score a goal against Turkish democracy.”