Attempts Continue to Get Erdogan in Place

ANKARA–The Turkish Daily news writes that in an attempt to get Recep Tayyip Erdogan in office–the three-article constitutional amendment package which was due to pave the way for election to Parliament and therefore premiership of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) leader is to be taken up by Parliament once again this week after it was vetoed by President Ahmet Necdet Sezer.

The first round of voting on the package will be held Tuesday and the second round on Friday. Two weeks ago–465 deputies voted for the passage of the package in secret voting.

Despite CHP leader Deniz Baykal’s criticisms against Sezer for his veto–members of Parliament’s Constitutional Committee meeting on Monday took up a different line. Committee members from the CHP first held a three-hour meeting with Baykal and the fact that they voiced objections during the subsequent Committee meeting was interpreted by some as a sign that not all the CHP members would support this time the changes.

Speaking at the Constitutional Committee meeting–the CHP deputies said the party’s support for changes was still continuing but added that Sezer’s veto argumen’s should be taken into consideration as well. Though they voted for the changes at the end of the meeting–they said the changes should not be brought into Parliament immediately and that first a subcommittee should be formed to examine them. But this proposal was rejected by votes from the AK Party members. CHP members also wanted a change to the constitutional amendment package–stipulating that by-elections could not be held automatically in a province which is no longer represented in Parliament and that a two-third vote from Parliament is necessary.

Ugur Aksoz of the CHP told the Committee meeting that his party was not against the constitutional changes in principle but added that President Sezer’s veto argumen’s should also be taken into account. Another CHP member–Cahit Kart–said there was no change in CHP’s line and added that the issue of parliamentary immunities should be handled as well. Kart emphasized CHP was not trying to block constitutional changes.

The AK Party administration is planning to give second approval to the package–without making any changes–and send it back to Sezer. The president has the right to issue a second veto if Parliament approves the package with changes. For this reason–the AK Party administration has decided to pass the package without any change.

"The changes are not designed for a certain individual. And even if they are–there is nothing wrong with it," said Ertugrul Yalcinbayir–Deputy Prime Minister–to reporters on Monday–arguing that the changes are meant to extend political freedom for all.

Yalcinbayir said AK Party would insist on changes despite the presidential veto but added that this should not be understood as a confrontation with the president.

Under the Constitution–the president has no option but to approve a vetoed constitutional change–if it is approved in Parliament for a second time without any change. But the Constitution allows the president to send the changes to a referendum afterwards.

On the basis of a past conviction under Article 312 of the Turkish Criminal Code (TCK)–Erdogan was barred from running in the November 3 elections. Erdogan could not become the prime minister despite the landslide victory of his party because–under the Constitution–the prime minister must be elected from among deputies.

The three-article package removes the constitutional provision that those convicted under Article 312 are not eligible to become a deputy. For this reason–Article 76 of the Constitution is amended. In a separate change–by-elections are allowed in a province without delay if this province is–for some reason–no longer represented in Parliament. This second change paves the way for Erdogan to swiftly take over the prime ministerial post.

After the Higher Electorate Board (YSK) cancelled November 3 elections in the southeastern province of Siirt–Erdogan was expected to become a deputy from Siirt in by-elections in this province on February 9. But now that the constitutional changes have been vetoed by Sezer–his chances to be elected as a Siirt deputy have been jeopardized.

Some comment that Erdogan cannot run in Siirt by-elections because–even if Sezer approves changes without sending them to a referendum–there will not be enough time left to make legal changes parallel to the constitutional amendmen’s. A draft law bringing laws into line with the constitutional changes has already been approved in Parliament–except those regulating the date of entry into force. Even if Parliament swiftly approves this draft–the president has the right to wait for 15 days before approving the constitutional changes. Whether Sezer will immediately approve the changes and whether he will use his right to send the changes to referendum is still a mystery. And this weakens Erdogan’s chance to eventually become a deputy from Siirt.

Under another scenario–Erdogan might run in by-elections to be held in the Black Sea province of Rize–his hometown–in the near future–if the constitutional changes go into force without referendum. For this to happen–all three deputies from Rize–all of whom are AK Party deputies–will have to resign to force a by-election in the province.

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