It came as a respite in the years- long bickering between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the opposition Republican Peoples Party (CHP) when Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan unexpectedly found negotiable a proposal by Deniz Baykal that if the package of Constitutional amendments is broken up into two, the opposition would vote to accept 27 of the 30 amendments in the legislative assembly making a referendum unnecessary.
For the remaining three amendments that the opposition objects to, Baykal said a referendum could be held.
CHP objects to three of the 30 amendments that are related with the composition of the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) and the party closures. According to the opposition, authorizing the President to elect members to the Constitutional Court, changing the composition of HSYK to which the parliament and the president are given mandates to select members would destruct the independence of the judiciary and politicize it. CHP also objects to the amendment that authorizes the legislative assembly to have the final say about opening cases at the Constitutional Court to close political parties on grounds of violating the Constitution.
Baykal addressing President Abdullah Gul made what he described as “a historical proposal” that his party would vote “yes” to 27 of the 30 amendments if Gul openly commits himself to submit only the three controversial changes to referendum. With CHP’s 97 votes in addition to AKP’s 337 members 27 amendments would easily get the necessary two thirds majority and change the Constitution without resorting to a national referendum.
To Baykal’s proposal, the response came from Erdogan while he was flying to the United States this week to attend the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington.
“Personally I am not against it. I will consult with my friends and authorized committees and give a reply,” said Erdogan to the journalists accompanying him to the U.S.
“But I don’t know in which direction the President would use his authority,” he added.
Despite the positive tone of his response, Erdogan could not resist criticizing Baykal for addressing his proposal directly to the President. “The president is not the head of the executive. He is trying to pull the president into political debate,” Erdogan charged.
However, Baykal’s proposal and Erdogan’s somewhat positive attitude defused the tense political atmosphere in Turkey as the representatives of the parliamentary groups of the two parties announced that they will be meeting to discuss whether a compromise could be achieved on the basis of Baykal’s proposal.
The reaction shown by some circles within AKP reflects the deep distrust between the two parties. Sources in AKP say that CHP might go to the Constitutional Court after the voting in the parliament to block the referendum on three controversial amendments about the judiciary and party closures claiming that these are unconstitutional. They would need sound guarantees from CHP in order to accept Baykal’s proposal.
On the other hand, CHP spokespeople claim that the 27 amendments that include “positive discrimination of women, children and disabled, protection of personal data, collective bargaining rights for government employees are just sweeteners inserted into the bill the basic purpose of which is to take the entire judiciary system under the control of the governing party.
Next few weeks will show whether Turkey will revert to the political bickering that has been going on for years or the governing party and the main opposition would be able to reach a compromise may be for the first time since AKP came to power in 2002.