“We are sitting at the table in a bid to cleanse Turkey of coup laws. The constitution is also a part of the coup law,” Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), said in remarks published in daily newspaper Milliyet on Feb. 29.
Recalling that any change in the first four articles of the current constitution, which cover clauses about Turkey as a secular state and Turkey's official language as Turkish, is a “red line” for their party, Kılıçdaroğlu added: “We would lend support to all arrangements for strengthening the parliamentary system. Sitting around a table for a different system, a different regime, doesn't work for us. What is the use of sitting around a table on an issue which we will not vote for and will not accept?”
Kılıçdaroğlu plans to send their response to Parliament Speaker İsmail Kahraman's call later this week, while the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) is likely to send their response next week. The HDP will define the AKP's insistence on a transition from the current parliamentary system to a presidential system as an “imposition” and will underline that the debate has been “blocking” the negotiations. The HDP will emphasize that a new constitution will be possible only through consensus by the four parties.
The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli already responded affirmatively to Kahraman's call, reiterating in his letter sent on Feb. 27 that the CHP should be “persuaded” to return to the table.
“We [the CHP] are sincerely conveying our thoughts from the beginning. Let them do the same. Let them come up before the public and tell for whatever reason why they [the AKP] are advocating for the presidential system,” Kılıçdaroğlu, meanwhile, told the daily Milliyet.
In mid-February, the AKP and CHP traded accusations over the dissolution of the inter-party parliamentary panel tasked with drafting a new constitution after just three sessions. The CHP left the table on Feb. 16, complaining that the ruling party had tried to link all issues to the possible system change.
During a plenary debate late Feb. 26, Kahraman announced that he had sent letters to the leaders of all four political parties represented at the national assembly, asking for the resumption of the constitution work.
Last week, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu vowed that his AKP remains determined to forge a new constitution, with or without the participation of the CHP.
“Of course, we'd prefer to draft the new constitution with a high level of representation by joining all four parties. But if the CHP abstains from joining the commission, we believe a new constitution that Turkey needs can be drafted by a commission formed with the other two parties. Such a constitution will not have any deficits in regards to legitimacy,” Davutoğlu stated.
However, Baçeli has disagreed with Davutoğlu's attitude towards the commission. “As the MHP, we believe that a preparation for a constitution [without the CHP] will not yield results and even if it yields results, it will not be inclusive,” Bahçeli said in a letter sent to Kahraman on Feb. 27, emphasizing the importance of a four-party commission.