Ankara, October 14, 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency
Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım has welcomed the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader’s suggestion to take the question of a presidential system in Turkey to a referendum amid a vociferous debate on charter amendments that would include such a shift.
“I thank [MHP leader] Mr. Devlet Bahçeli for taking a position on the side of the nation,” Yıldırım said, while addressing his party’s local officials in Ankara on Oct. 12.
His words came amid a report in daily Habertürk, which said main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu had ordered his party officials to be ready for a snap poll.
“This is exemplary behavior,” he said after Bahçeli had earlier stated that the presidency was the de facto situation and that parties should legalize the case of affairs with a new constitution.
“The AK Party should introduce its own constitutional draft to parliament,” Bahçeli said on Oct. 12, while addressing his party’s deputies.
“This draft will either be approved if it garners 367 votes or will be taken to a referendum if it gets more than 330 votes [but less than 367],” he said.
A sum of 330 votes paves the way for a referendum on constitutional changes, while 367 is enough to effect the change without any need for resorting to a public vote.
The AKP has 317 seats while the smallest party in the parliament, the MHP, has 40.
Yıldırım said Bahçeli’s remarks “gave hope.”
“As the AK Party, we have always said Turkey has to change the current de facto situation into a legal situation,” Yıldırım said, referring to the seat of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
“Mr. Bahçeli’s remarks are encouraging. We are ready,” he said.
Yıldırım also said on Oct. 13 that his party itself would add new items to a 60-item package that was agreed upon by three parties before two elections last year as part of a failed attempt.
Yıldırım said his party would take the change to a referendum in any case, even if it is approved by at least 367 votes.
The MHP leader has brought the issue of a presidential system back onto the agenda and “brought heat to domestic politics” in Turkey, Erdoğan’s spokesperson, İbrahim Kalın, said in a briefing on Oct. 13.
A constitutional amendment for the presidential system will be discussed “under the roof of parliament and then presented to the will of the people,” the spokesperson stated. A discussion process with the parties in parliament would “enrich” the case and would bring new dimensions, he added.
The justice minister also waded into the dispute over the new charter, saying the political parties should acknowledge the de facto presidential system in Turkey and discuss it in the parliament with responsibility.
“Isn’t there a de facto presidential system in Turkey as Mr. Bahçeli has said? You can say as much as you want. There is! That’s why I am telling you that our political parties should present it to parliament and discuss it in parliament,” Minister Bekir Bozdağ said Oct. 13.
“I hope the political parties find ground for reconciliation on this issue. Even if they cannot reconcile, I hope they pave the way so that this constitutional amendment is asked to the public,” he said. “I am confident that the Turkish public will end the discussion on the regime.”
The AKP aims to “legalize dictatorship” with the presidential system, the CHP’s spokesperson said Oct. 13.
“We all know why the AKP reacted to the debate on the system change with great speed. They make us experience fascism every day. Their only concern is to legalize the dictatorship in which one person seizes the will of the nation,” spokesperson Selin Sayek Böke said after her party’s executive board meeting on Oct. 13.
The only concern for the AKP and Bahçeli “is political ambition and the result of this ambition is a presidential debate,” she added.
Along with the CHP, which has 133 seats, the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), which has 59 deputies, is resisting the AKP’s efforts to impose a presidential system, although the CHP has participated in a commission to debate a constitutional change while the HDP has not.