And of course current Parliament Speaker Köksal Toptan wants to keep his seat for another two years. But who willl Erdoğan prefer? Who will take the number two seat in Turkey? At this point, it is a good idea to make a quick recap of the past. After the July 22, 2007 general elections, Erdoğan became prime minister and Abdullah Gül became a candidate for president. A center-right name was needed between these two National Viewers. Back then, the approach was assessed that the AKP wanted to send a message to laics or get closer to the center because Toptan of the center-right was preferred for the seat of Parliament speaker. He was a veteran politician who had served together with the former President Süleyman Demirel and was nominated for the True Path Party, or DYP, leadership. Since his wife was not wearing a headscarf, this was read as “sensitivity towards laicism.”
Today, the big picture in the AKP suggests that unless something unexpected happens, Toptan will become the AKP’s nominee again. Balances inside the party give him the opportunity. Another balance factor is identical with the reason why Toptan was selected two years ago: that is, he is from the center-right. A similar discussion took place as Bülent Arınç and Nihat Ergün were included in the Cabinet. Influence of the “National View” in the Council of Ministers was stressed following the reshuffle. In such a critical period, it is most likely that Erdoğan will prefer Toptan in order to remain outside a new set of discussions. His two-year performance increases Toptan’s chance. Even a single example is enough; the “mine bill” discussions for instance…
The Republican People’s Party, or CHP, raised hell during the discussions and Toptan’s impartiality was questioned for leading the talks. And of course, his giving support to the AKP in the last two years in some other issues was also criticized. Toptan is most likely the winner. If Erdoğan doesn’t make a surprise bid, the Parliament Speaker will be Toptan again. I am afraid, former ministers having eyes on the seat will have to be satisfied with having six years of experience in the Cabinet.
Questions remain unanswered
In the 23rd legislative term, Parliament got involved in plenty of legislation. A total of 233 laws were enacted in two years. Of 416 motions of investigation, only 58 were approved and eight investigation committees were formed. Deputies, on various issues, submitted a total of 8,587 motions of question, only 4,144 of which found an answer. The picture shows that most of the questions asked by Parliamentary deputies to the government remain unanswered. Parliament falling short of monitoring activities was also questioned. Ministers not answering or avoiding questions caused criticisms that Parliament fails in the monitoring process. Even in the AKP group, deputies lamented that ministers were aloof to motions for question. Apparently, this problem will occur again in the upcoming period as well because Parliament will be involved in many legislative activities in the new legislative term; the first to be handled will be the Trade and Debts Law drafts containing hundreds of articles.
Genç’s humorous suggestion to Evren
The discussion of "Judging generals involved in the Sept. 12 military coup" continues at full speed. Tunceli Independent Deputy Kamer Genç was a member of the Advisory Council of the Sept. 12 administration. As he was reminded that the top commander of the Sept. 12 process and the former President Kenan Evren said that he would commit suicide if he is put before the judge, Genç was quick to respond: "He shouldn’t raise other’s hope for nothing. Let him not wait even for a minute. If he wants to commit suicide, let him… Number of responsible of the Sept. 12 process is Evren and he should face trial..."
Attempts that have not been actualized create discomfort not only among the party grassroots but also among parliamentary deputies. And that is being felt in the party administration as well. In order to eliminate the feeling, the administration is preparing for a quite serious move in autumn. And the concern that the AKP may be closed by relating the party with the Deniz Feneri corruption case has a share in it. For this reason, an “Autumn Plan” is being considered in the AKP. It will be revealed in Parliament, be brought to life afterwards and a short- and middle-term timeline will be set. The timeline, in a way, will give body to an AKP road map by the next general elections. How will it be shaped?
The constitutional change is the most important part of the short-term plan. And the most critical subtitle is “making political party closures more difficult.” With this, the AKP wants to remove the risk of a possible closure case and to make amendments in political parties and elections laws in a small change package. A 100 Turkey Representative issue may be actualized. The AKP having 338 seats in Parliament needs at least 360 votes to make necessary changes in the Constitution. For amendments having 330 to 360 votes a popular vote is the case. The AKP this time is even discussing going for a referendum. And the above attempts that were not materialized, they all are a part of the Autumn Plan.
In the autumn of 2009, the AKP is preparing for a critical commencement. But one has the urge to ask, “Why is it the autumn of 2009?” For the plans make rumors of an “early election in 2010” more possible. Is the AKP planning to kill three birds with one stone? To save itself, to make democratic openings and to corner the opposition by a rush election. We’ll see.
- The DTP might turn ‘hawkish’
The “hawks” and “doves” fight in the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party, or DTP, has flared up in the Central Executive Committee meeting this week. The hard-liner Emine Ayna and moderate Ahmet Türk differed about withdrawing an appointment request from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. “Let’s not withdraw it” insisted Türk as Ayna and her friends drag afoot for canceling the appointment request. The hawkish wing won and the request was withdrawn. That shows if the government cannot take any solid stance in the solution of the Kurdish issue, the DTP may becp,e toughened under the influence of the hawkish wing. And Türk’s power may not be enough to prevent this hard-liner stance.
- Human Rights Emergency Service!Turkey’s human rights grade has always been low. In order to make a change, Parliamentary Human Rights Commission President Zafer Üskül has reached a decision. The commission will continue to work even after Parliament is adjourned for summer. “We’ll continue work during the holiday. Petitions and applications are still coming in. In the human rights area, situations that may require our immediate interference may occur. For this reason, we’ll work in summer.” The commission members are joking with Üskül, “Human Rights Emergency Services are on duty around the clock.”
Although experts on the issue such as Burhan Kuzu, head of the Constitutional Commission, assert, “This is not legitimate,” a political decision has already been made. Sometimes it is quite easy to harmonize law with politics! But only if the government – I mean the Parliament majority, leader or leading figures – say, “Yes.” So, in line with this political decision, Gül will sit as president for five years and remain in Çankaya until 2012. If he is nominated again, Gül may run for a second five-year term.
The president of Turkey will be elected by “popular vote” in the 2012 elections. But how? Though Parliament made constitutional changes, it has not yet passed laws regulating presidential referendums. Although two years have passed since the amendment, no preparations for the relevant bill have been made. Another irregularity is that the same goes for parliamentary elections, because the five-year election term was reduced to four years by a constitutional change. And a new law regulating this is also necessary.
Parliament Speaker Köksal Toptan himself said these two regulations are needed immediately. He insists that Parliament should pass two separate bills on these two critical issues. “We have to pass a law for the presidential election,” he said. “A law on how presidential elections will be held and how applications will be submitted is needed. Besides, we need another law to enact the four-year tenure for Parliament. And we should do this as soon as possible.”
The Parliament speaker seems eager because he is concerned that the Supreme Election Board, or YSK, will take the initiative if the required law is not enacted. If Parliament cannot adopt regulations, the YSK will get involved and its rules will be applied. What happens if YSK does not follow the political wishes? Will the tenures in Parliament and the Çankaya Presidential Residence be changed? It is less likely to say, “This doesn’t happen in Turkey.” So, is the governing party making a detailed calculation? Do they have different expectations? We will have a chance to see all these possibilities if the AKP does not take care of the said regulations by autumn.
Of crocodiles and Aborigines, Turks and Kurds
Deputy Sırrı Sakık of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party, or DTP, was our guest at the Hürriyet Daily News and Economic Review’s Parliament bureau. He said that everyone should do his or her share to stop the Turkish-Kurdish conflict.
“I learned something new yesterday and am very impressed. Crocodiles and Aborigines in Australia bathe in the same water, and crocodiles attack everyone but Aborigines. Experts searching for the reason figured out that these two species have gotten used to each other’s smell,” Sakık said tearfully. “Look, we Turks and Kurds have been living in this same land for a thousand years and taking baths in the same water. We are getting married with each other. We are crying during the same folk songs and laughing at the same jokes. Our sorrow and happiness are the same. Still we attack each other. I am having a hard time understanding this. We could not even be crocodiles.”
‘CHP protection zone’ demanded
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.
Making it difficult to close political parties and establishing the right for individuals to apply to Parliament, were included in a package presented to PM Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The opposition doesn’t entertain the idea. Then, what will happen in this case? I traveled with Parliament Speaker Köksal Toptan on the Bandırma ship from Istanbul to Samsun and talked about the constitutional changes in detail.
Toptan believes Turkey needs a "civilian constitution." He said a founding council could be formed to conduct the relevant research. Since he cannot have support for that, Toptan added, Parliament is far away from this target today. According to him, CHP leader Deniz Baykal, who implied support for a founding council, does "nothing" in this direction. What is Toptan thinking about limited constitutional changes?
He says if any offer is made by any parties Ğ emphasizing, even if it comes from the DTP Ğhe could evaluate this. "I will take this offer and visit other political parties. And I can say, ’Such and such party suggested this constitutional change, what do you say? Let’s set up a commission of conciliation.’ I can start the process, but it is impossible for me to lead political parties." Upon being reminded that the AKP is working on constitutional change, but the CHP and MHP are reacting against it, Toptan said, "Let’s not lose our hope at all," as a way to send a message to the opposition parties. The parliament speaker stressed that a change is a must for the president’s and Parliament’s terms of office, adding he would visit party leaders for a Parliament bylaw offer.