Main opposition CHP’s oath crisis might ruin new constitution hopes

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The empty rows belong to CHP deputies, who walked out of Parliament on Tuesday, during the swearing in ceremony, after the parliament speaker called out the name of Mehmet Haberal, a CHP deputy currently in jail as a suspect in the Ergenekon trial. Courts have refused to release two CHP deputies currently in jail.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has sabotaged the drafting of the new constitution by masterminding a crisis caused by deciding not to take the oath at the swearing-in ceremony of Parliament on grounds that the court refused to release Mehmet Haberal and Mustafa Balbay — suspects in the Ergenekon case — currently in jail at Silivri Prison, even though they were elected as deputies during the elections.

The process of drafting a new constitution may end up in smoke if the CHP makes similar moves in future. Ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) parliamentary group deputy Chairman Salih Kapusuz, speaking to Sunday’s Zaman, said:

“The crisis we faced at the opening ceremony of Parliament indicates that the new constitution process will not be easy. The CHP has already taken the wrong path. It cannot go back on itself. It expects us to save them, instead. It cannot go on with such an incorrect approach. But if it does the same with the constitution drafting process, we will tell the nation what exactly the party does.” AK Party ?stanbul deputy Mehmet Domaç is particularly concerned about the possibility of the CHP backpedaling on its pledge to support the constitution drafting process. Noting that the CHP had opposed the 26-article constitutional amendments package that was put to a referendum on Sept. 12, 2010, Domaç says:

“The referendum results indicated that the nation supports a new constitution. Therefore, the CHP had to make promises about the new constitution in the run-up to the June 12 elections. I want to believe that the party is sincere with its promises. But with the attitude it took during the opening ceremony of Parliament, the CHP proved that it will abstain from any compromise. It is not hard to predict that they will have a similar attitude during the constitution drafting process. With the CHP, you cannot reach an agreement. But if it sabotages the constitution work, it will pay dearly.”

Kapusuz says that it would be hard to come to a consensus with the CHP in regards to the process of drafting the new constitution and that even if a compromise is brought about, it will not be productive. To prove his case, he reminded us of the work it had done to amend the parliamentary bylaws during the previous parliamentary term.

“Mr. [Kemal] K?l?çdaro?lu says that during the previous term, the AK Party and the CHP successfully cooperated to draft the amended bylaws. But I was heading that project. I should ask Mr. K?l?çdaro?lu about the fate of the bylaws he is referring to. What happened to the successfully drafted bylaws? We were unable to implement them.

We had to shelve it because the CHP did not want the amendments to be made. Such work is not done in order to be shelved. I don’t want the constitution to suffer the same fate,” he says.

Erçelebi: The CHP plays its part well

Democratic Left Party (DSP) deputy Chairman Hasan Erçelebi, speaking to Sunday’s Zaman, notes that the new CHP is playing the part it has been given. “There is a role imposed on the CHP about who will be nominated from where. The CHP is currently playing its role in the best way. It may occasionally refuse to play the game, but it will certainly play an active role in the constitution drafting process. Article 14 and 76 of the Constitution will be revised in order to save Haberal and Balbay,” he says.

Erçelebi is certain that the CHP will take part in the constitution drafting process, but has doubts about whether the process will be successful:

“As long as the Turkish nation cannot find any alternative other than the CHP, the AK Party may even boost its votes to 60 percent. Since 2002, some groups have advertised the CHP as an alternative to the AK Party. In the three elections, the AK Party has increased its votes considerably. As is the case with the oath-taking crisis, it was always the CHP that categorically created crises. This picture tells us that Turkey needs a new main opposition party and an alternative.”

AK Party tries to keep the CHP at bay

While the CHP sabotaged the hopes about reaching a compromise for a new constitution, the AK Party is taking measures to keep the CHP on a constitutional platform.

In the run-up to the general elections, the CHP made promises about the new constitution, but CHP ?stanbul deputy Oktay Ek?i, who served as a speaker on a temporary basis in the first parliamentary session, gave hints about the CHP’s outlook on the new constitution. Ek?i praised the constitution of 1961, sponsored by the subversive coup makers in the aftermath of the coup of May 27, 1960. AK Party’s deputies did not show any reaction to Ek?i’s words in order not to deter the CHP away from the work on the new constitution.

Whether this strategy will prove successful with the CHP is not known. Last week, deputy Prime Minister Cemil Çiçek and AK Party deputy Chairman Haluk ?pek paid a visit to CHP leader K?l?çdaro?lu in a move that indicated the importance Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an attaches to the contribution the CHP may make to the constitution drafting process.

Kapusuz maintains that with the constitution work in mind, the AK Party is trying to save the CHP from the bad strategy they are currently following.

“We need to put the CHP back on the right track. We expect them to develop solutions, but the solution they come up with will have both advantages and disadvantages. We don’t want any problem to remain unsolved. Politics is the legitimate ground for searching for what is reasonable. They are on the wrong path as they are hurling threats at courts and accusations at us. Although this crisis has nothing to do with us, we still want to develop a solution. They cannot sustain this crisis for a long time. They cannot sit on such a wrong policy for any length of time. A party that avoids parliamentary activities will split up. They can resist for the time being because there is the parliamentary intercession. But if Parliament was open, they would not be able to resist. Still we are ready to find a solution that would save the CHP from the wrong path they have taken,” he says.


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