I asked main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu during a live interview on Olay TV late on Dec. 17 a question that has been avoided for a long time due to the political polarization in recent years. Could the CHP and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) amend the Turkish charter in consensus? Could this be the way out for Turkey for easing the politics and the economy? Or is it too late?
I will quote him and comment on his remarks but first I need to brief his responses on current issues.
Pandemic, economy, judiciary
What would Kılıçdaroğlu do about the pandemic? He said he would immediately convene the Economic Social Council, which has been idle for a long time. “I would explain to the participants of the economy that complete lockdown for a duration suggested by scientists to fight the pandemic, I would take their support and impose it.”
Kılıçdaroğlu does not believe that the economic reform promised by President Tayyip Erdoğan will be realized. He said the Central Bank cannot break Erdoğan’s word and that one-man administration is also valid in the economy. He also reminded that the AK Party and its partner Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) prevented the parliament from investigating where the $128 billion spent in a bid to keep the value of the U.S. currency under 7 liras per dollar.
Kılıçdaroğlu thinks the judicial reform bid will also not yield results. He pointed out that former Istanbul Chief Prosecutor İrfan Fidan was nominated to the Constitutional Court by 101 Court of Cassaciton members just days after his appointment to the Court of Cacassion, saying that this was an indicator of how the judiciary is corrupted. Another example he gave was that no prosecutors have dared to call on Alaattin Çakıcı, the criminal organization leader who insulted and threatened him, to testify despite legal complaints. Claiming that Erdoğan’s lawyers direct the judiciary, Kılıçdaroğlu expressed his concerns that the president might boost his influence on the judiciary under the name of the reform package.
Politics and presidential candidacy
Kılıçdaroğlu recently triggered a debate when he responded to an AKP lawmaker during his speech on the budget in parliament, saying that “Who told you whether I could be a candidate.”
“We would be very pleased,” Erdoğan said while commenting on the issue. However, the CHP leader said they have not even talked with partners in their Nation Alliance, especially with İYİ Party leader MEral Akşener, about whether to nominate joint candidates. At this stage, this discussion seems to be inconclusive.
Kılıçdaroğlu’s statements on MHP were remarkable. MHP defined its grassroots as “people who love their homeland and follow Atatürk.” Kılıçdaroğlu argued that Devlet Bahçeli’s unconditional support for Erdogan has eroded the MHP votes and the party might leave the People’s Alliance.
I also asked him about the recent news on abuse incidents in the CHP municipalities. He said the party was strictly probing the incidents, has suspended the memberships of the accused, offered legal and psychological support to women who said they were victims, and that in line with the result of the internal investigation, the process would lead to expulsion from the party and a criminal complaint.
Strategic question on charter
And the strategic question in the headline that is not on the agenda today: Can the AK Party and CHP agree on a constitutional amendment?
This would inevitably mean the sharing of some powers of the presidential government system and Erdoğan with parliament, with Erdoğan staying in power.
Currently, various scenarios are set up on polls that show the votes of the AKP at around 35 percent, which is insufficient for a one-party rule but the AKP came to power alone with 34 percent of votes in 2002 under the now-gone parliamentary system.
We had also witnessed at that time what the AKP-CHP cooperation could bring. In the 2002-2004 period, nine charter amendments and fundamental legislative changes such as Penal Code and Civil Code were introduced as part of the reforms for EU accession. And these were done in parliament, without the need for a referendum.
Today, the AKP has 289 seats in parliament, as the CHP has 138. Their total 427 is enough for charter amendments even without requiring support from their political allies.
Is it a dream or the way out?
I asked Kılıçdaroğlu about the charter issue, and “Why not meet if they come?” he said, on the condition that Erdoğan gave up the understanding of “I will decide on everything” and embraced the rule of law.
I remain realistic. But there is a past example of it. The political consensus at the start of the 2000s brought Turkey to ease both in politics and the economy. It is beneficial to bring this problem to the agenda of political and economic decision-makers and civil society. The benefit of the people and the country is not in increasing conflict and polarization, but in dialogue and compromise for solutions to problems.
Goals that seem like a dream dream today can turn out to be a way out.