A referendum may be held on changing the constitution to establish an executive presidential system, said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin on November 4, three days after Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) regained the parliamentary majority it lost in the June elections.
Critics fear that emboldened by the AKP’s sweeping victory in the November polls, Erdogan will tighten his grip on power and the country will move closer to more authoritarian rule. If Erdogan renews his bid for a presidential system, this may increase social tension in an already deeply divided nation, critics say.
According to unofficial results, the AKP is projected to get 317 seats in the 550-seat parliament, more than the 276 seats needed to form a government. The ruling party, however, failed to secure a super-majority – 330 seats – that would allow it to hold a referendum on giving more executive powers to Erdogan. Thus, to win 330 votes for the constitutional change the AKP needs to seek a compromise with the opposition parties.
There will be more discussion on the presidential system and referendum in the period ahead, Ibrahim Kalin told reporters.
But, at the moment it looks unlikely for the political parties represented in parliament to find a common ground on constitutional changes and paving the way for moving Turkey towards an executive presidential system.
“The HDP is ready to discuss constitutional changes if they bring along more freedoms, but the party’s position regarding the presidential system has not changed; we are against it,” said Ayhan Bilgen, spokesman for the Kurdish HDP that saw its share of the vote declined by three points to 10.8% (59 seats), just above the 10% threshold in the November elections.
The main opposition party, centre-left Republic Peoples’ Party (CHP), similarly, does not outright reject the idea of rewriting the constitution, but party officials say the CHP will support such efforts only the news constitution ensure the rule of law and will bring broader rights. The CHP will reject any discussions about the presidential system, said the party’s deputy chairman Gursel Tekin. The CHP increased its votes only to 25.3% (134 seats) from 24.95% in June.
The nationalist MHP has not commented yet, but ahead of the November elections, its leader Devlet Bahceli clearly said he was against the presidential system. The MHP was the clear loser of the November polls. The nationalist party’s votes fell to 11.9% (40 seats) from 16.3%. Despite his party’s poor showing in the elections, Bahceli has not resigned.
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