Published On: Mon, Jan 9th, 2017

Turkey’s Parliament Launched Talks About Constitutional Change

nsnbc : Turkey’s parliament, on January 9, launched talks about amending the country’s constitution. The proposed package of amendments will change the country into an executive presidential system and transform the parliament into a “rubber stamp” parliament comparable to that of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

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The launch of the talks prompted protests, despite the fact that the country still is governed by emergency laws introduced on July 20, 2016, after the “failed” military coup on July 15. Opponents of the constitutional change point out that the parliament debates the sweeping constitutional change while MPs of the leftist opposition HDP are in jail. The HDP suspended its parliamentary work after the detention of several of its legislators.

Others stress that the introduction of the executive presidential system render the parliament virtually powerless and transforms it into a “rubber stamp assembly” comparable to the parliament in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

While most journalists have been too intimidated to report details, and media have largely been put under State control, it has transpired that police has dispersed non-violent protests throughout the country. In some cases police used disproportionate violence and water cannons.

“The heads of 100 nongovernmental organizations wanted to come and make statements here (in front of the parliament). But now you see, parliament is under blockade, the roads are closed, there is a TOMA (a water cannon vehicle). We are under siege,” said Aykut Erdogdu, a lawmaker of the Republican people’s Party – CHP. He added: “It is very wrong to block parliament on the eve of such an important constitutional change that will be discussed in parliament.”

Erdogdu stressed that the CHP’s parliamentary group will attempt to prolong and if possible stall the “constitutional reform” by issuing proposals and non-confidence motions in order to emphasize their opposition.

 CHP Deputy Group Chair Özgür Özel, for his part, told the press: “We think that the longer this process is going to be, the more useful it will be, the more likely these mistakes will be realized, and the constitutional proposal will be completely withdrawn.” He added that the discussions which prolonged the process in the parliamentary commission were fruitful in that they created awareness about the importance of the amendment. “We will give speeches on the entire constitutional amendment and then on each item. In addition, we may also propose that the material be removed from the text because it is contrary to the constitution,” Özel added.

The governing, Islamist AKP Group’s Deputy Chairperson Mustafa Elitaş, for his part, criticized the CHP’s plan to suggest it would appeal the amendments on the grounds that they are anti-constitutional. He noted that: “The parliamentary spokesperson should not issue that contradiction to the constitution proposal because after the constitution has changed, it will become the material of the constitution”.

Semih Yalçın, the MHP deputy leader, also opposed the CHP’s criticism that the amendment would pave the way for a federal system and ultimately the division of the country. Yalçın noted in a written statement that with the efforts of the MHP, the unitary character of the country had been protected and that all the possibilities that would lead to a regime change or division had been eliminated.

The AKP and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) block is making a special effort to prevent any defections from their parties in an effort to reach the 330 votes needed to bring the constitution to the referendum. The total number of votes of the two parties reaches 355, but seven lawmakers from the MHP have already publicly declared their opposition to the package.

Filiz Kerestecioğlu, the Peoples Democracy Party (HDP) Group’s Deputy Chairperson, stressed tha the HDP would say “no” to the constitution, adding that the HDP would try to make sure that the lawmakers vote in a secret ballot, despite pressures from the ruling party. He added: “We believe that some lawmakers who have the possibility to say ‘no’ will be pressured by other lawmakers; the government will use man-to-man marking.”

F/AK – nsnbc 09.01.2016

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