Cracks have emerged within the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) over a decision to lend support to a government proposal on a provisional change in the constitution that would allow parliament to lift the immunities of Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lawmakers and others for one time only.
The Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, released annually by the U.S. State Department, has provided a snapshot of the deteriorating human rights environment in Turkey, stressing that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government’s interference with freedom of expression, arbitrary application of laws and inadequate protection of civilians in the country’s southeast pose great threats to civil rights and liberties.
The mandate of the parliamentary panel tasked with rewriting the constitution should also include an overall democratization process for Turkey, two of the country’s opposition parties have said.
“The demand to redefine the mandate of the commission is our joint demand with the CHP [Republican People’s Party]. The commission should not only be tasked to re-write the constitution but to initiate a comprehensive democratization process and to become part of these efforts,” Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lawmaker Mithat Sancar, a member of the panel, told reporters late Feb. 10.
The Turkish Parliament is set to launch a fresh initiative as an inter-party commission will meet for the first time on Feb. 4 with the task of writing a new charter, nearly two years after failing to do so.
The current parliamentary system in Turkey is out of date and the existing situation, in which both the prime minister and president are elected by the people, is unsustainable, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has stated, emphasizing his wish to hold a referendum over a new constitution and a transition to a presidential system while calling on civil society organizations and media to launch a grassroots campaign to this aim.
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has dismissed hearsay suggesting it intended to hold a new snap election, while arguing that such a move would sabotage the potential offered by “four years of uninterrupted service.”
Comments by Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş on Jan. 20 followed reports claiming the AKP would initiate an early election if it failed to gain support from the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) on constitutional amendments which would pave the way for the country’s transition into a presidential system.
Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu was re-elected as chair of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) for his fourth consecutive term at his the party’s convention over the weekend, saying he aimed to renew the CHP’s management with “more new and young faces.”
Kılıçdaroğlu received the votes of 990 delegates out of 1,238, running alone as his sole contender İzmir deputy Mustafa Balbay failed to garner the required number of signatures to be a candidate.
Turkish police have detained at least 18 academics who signed a petition criticising military operations in the largely Kurdish south-east.
Fifteen were later released after questioning, the state-run Anadolu agency reported.
The academics are accused of engaging in "terrorist propaganda" and insulting the state.
But the detentions have rekindled concerns about freedom of expression in Turkey, analysts say.
The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) has named three lawmakers to represent the party in a parliamentary commission to be tasked with drafting a new constitution, with party leader Devlet Bahçeli underlining their aspirations of strengthening the current parliamentary system.
But Parliamentary Speaker İsmail Kahraman voiced his support for a transition from the current parliamentary system to a presidential system.
The leader of the Kurdish-problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has said the party had no support from media organizations during the run-up periods of both June and November 2015 parliamentary elections, daily Hürriyet has reported.
“We never got positive support from any media organizations on June 7 nor Nov. 1, including the Doğan Media Group. There was not any agreement and relationship built upon mutual interest,” said HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş on Jan. 10, speaking at his party’s city conference at a wedding hall in Istanbul’s Çağlayan neighborhood.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan issued a statement on Friday to mark Working Journalists Day and said a country’s democracy is as strong as the extent to which its media and journalists are free to do their jobs, but added that exercising that the ability to exercise that freedom should not be construed as constituting exemption from responsibilities.
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.
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and two other opposition parties have reached a consensus on a number of key issues necessary to produce a new constitution and now parliament is responsible for moving the process forward, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu stated on Dec. 6.
“I think six months will be enough [to write a new constitution] when the current acquis on the matter is also considered,” Davutoğlu told press members.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in a quest to find new ways to create a new constitution, has proposed “conference calls” with as many people as possible to provide a strong ground for “societal agreement.”
Speaking at a press conference after his Istanbul arrival from an official visit to Saudi Arabia late Dec. 31, Erdoğan was asked to elaborate on his earlier remarks concerning “conference calls.”
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has again reiterated the need for a systemic change in Turkey’s governance, underlining that his aspiration for a presidential system had nothing to do with his personal prosperity.
“My duty as the president is to pave the way for the progress of my country and nation in every field and supporting efforts to this aim. Of course, it is the constitution which designates limits of my authority but my responsibility is certainly to my nation,” Erdoğan said on Dec. 17.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Reporters without Borders (RSF) and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) at a joint press conference in Brussels on Tuesday called on the European Union not to allow the challenges of the refugee crisis to deter it from confronting Turkey about its poor press freedom record.
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) would seek to make changes to the constitution with consensus even if they had the power to alter the document on their own, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has said.
Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) comfortably won a parliamentary vote of confidence on Nov. 30, a month after its landslide victory in the Nov. 1 snap elections.
509 deputies cast votes on Nov. 30, and the AKP received 315 votes of confidence while 194 deputies cast votes of no confidence.
Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief Can Dündar and the daily’s Ankara bureau chief, Erdem Gül, were arrested due to stories published about Turkish intelligence trucks bound for Syria in early 2014, on Nov. 26 in Istanbul.
“We are accused of ‘spying.’ The president said [our action is] ‘treason.’ We are not traitors, spy, or heroes; we are journalists. What we have done here was an act of journalism,” Dündar said before testifying to prosecutors on Nov. 26, in a case that has been denounced by many as an attack against free press.