(GPA) Ankara – After regaining several seats in parliament lost during the last election, Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) looks to change Turkey’s constitution.
The AKP won a majority in last weeks parliamentary elections in Turkey but is still just 13 seats shy of the 330 votes needed to call for a constitutional referendum. Erdogan is hoping to broker a deal with some of the minority party MPs in order to get a vote on rewriting the constitution passed in June.
Erdogan was hoping he wouldn’t have to work with the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) this past summer when he asked his constituents to vote for a one party parliament by delivering him “400 AKP MPs.” He may not have gotten what he asked for there but he didn’t manage to win back enough seats to restore some confidence. Most seats he managed to win were formerly held by Kurdish HDP; who had a lower voter turnout than last election. Some speculate this was a result of harsh security measures in majority Kurdish areas.
The good news for Erdogan was that the previously AKP aligned Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu already had met with the MHP leadership and may have secured some of their MPs votes before he was forced to resign. Since Davutoglu was forced out of office for disagreements with Erdogan, now it is up to the new PM, Binali Yıldırım.
Under the current constitution, Turkey’s president is not even supposed to be affiliated with a party and is primarily a figurehead position. While that may be the law and Erdogan is technically abiding by it; his party has been carrying out moves since his emergence in 2002 toward consolidating power. One of the final strokes towards AKP domination of parliament was removing some Kurdish MPs by way of elections and others by way of legal prosecution for connection to Kurdish ‘terrorist’ groups. Turkey lifted the immunity MPs had from legal prosecution over the summer and most critics speculated it was specifically to target Kurdish politicians who had a firm grasp on their seat in parliament.
Now with some of the most die hard opposition out of the way, Erdogan wishes to rewrite 1980’s constitution to grant the president more unilateral powers like “in France or the US” according to one presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin. Kalin told Al Jazeera “The current constitution has been amended many times, to the extent that it lost its essence and became full of details.”
In a speech on Wednesday Erdogan told some administrators “”The period ahead is not for talks or discussions. I say this clear: it is a period for getting result.” The results Erdogan is speaking of are of course granting him more unilateral power and for a longer time. Under current law – if Erdogan wins re-election in 2019 – he can serve as president for the second and last term under the current limits until 2024. If he manages to hold the constitutional referendum though, it is likely he would wipe all previous counted time in office off the books and be allowed to serve until 2029.
With NATO already worried about their strongest regional ally and the EU worried about their potential next member state, the new laws promoting more unilateral power in Turkey aren’t likely to make these entities any more comfortable. The Kurds are probably worried too as Erdogan constructs his Syrian border wall to cut off their freedom of movement and his political power to cut off their representation in the Turkish government. Allies and opposition alike have been worried about Erdogan consolidating power; and if he gets his way next spring it looks like he’ll have pretty much achieved that goal.