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Reasons behind emerging deep divides in the ruling AKP party

As discussions on new initiatives for finding a solution to the Kurdish issue continue, a crisis has emerged over a bill to eliminate land mines on the Syrian border. The opposition parties Ğ the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, and the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party, or DTP Ğ have put on the most tactical joint act in recent years to try and stop the bill.

The governing Justice and Development Party, or AKP, has had difficulty in Parliament for the first time despite holding 338 seats there. One of the reasons is the rumor that an Israeli company could be awarded a lease on the land for 44 years after clearing it of mines. The National View front in the AKP is offended by the suggestion. But the "deep resistance" has some other reasons behind it.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan changed more than half of the AKP representatives in the July 22, 2007, general elections. Most of the newcomers were well-known professionals in their own fields and at the beginning, they were eager to make serious contributions in these areas, from law to administration. But in time they have come to feel "dysfunctional" in Parliament and consider themselves only a part of Parliament’s arithmetic. Deputy meetings were not enough to bury the hatchet. With the latest change in the Cabinet, the disturbance hit its peak. And the wave of discontent spread slowlyÉ

Unhappy AKP deputies took advantage of the landmine bill to send a strong message to Erdoğan by not attending General Council meetings. Erdoğan met the parliamentary group and even made a headcount behind closed doors. Over 70 deputies did not attend the meeting.

This was clearly a civil disobedience, one that occurred without even two years passing since the general election. We do not know if Erdoğan and his team will read this message accurately, but if the trouble is not removed, small-scale revolts inside the party may cause other serious problems. In summary, alternatives to Erdoğan exist. If the offended AKP deputies are not convinced and not addressed, Erdoğan could have a headache in the future from the possibly more serious problems.


Was the constitutional change shelved?

Right after the March 29 local polls, the AKP rolled up its sleeves to prepare to make constitutional change. The party’s legal commission made a study and prepared a small package of 10 articles. But following the fierce reactions from the opposition, the AKP did not transfer the package to Parliament. But what will be the fate of this package? Parliament will adjourn for the summer on July 1, and critical legal regulations will be waiting. So a constitutional change over the summer is not likely. Says an influential AKP official: "We are discussing the matter. It will be in Parliament in the fall." But it seems that if there is no "surprise," the AKP’s small package will be shelved until fall.


Parliament’s tough choice

Nobel Prize-winning author Orhan Pamuk and the late Türkan Saylan, the president of the Association for Supporting Contemporary Life, or ÇYDD, were nominated for the Parliament Honorary Award this year. Free Democracy Party, or ÖDP, leader Ufuk Uras nominated Pamuk and CHP deputy Canan Arıtman nominated Saylan. As Parliament does not grant awards to the deceased, Pamuk will probably end up running against some other nominees. According to a Parliament Council member, "Uras cleverly nominated Pamuk. Deputies have to grant the award to Pamuk in order not cause remarks like ’A Nobel Prize winner is not being awarded by Parliament.’" We’ll see if Parliament confers the award on Pamuk.