Wednesday, March 26, 2008

AKP Looks to Amend Law on Party Closures

AKP is ever more intent to attempt to push forward new law that would restrict the closure of political parties and possibly save AKP from closure. AKP and MHP had already announced the creation of commissions by which to study the law on party closures, but AKP announced yesterday that it will be introducing a set of amendments to Article 68 and 69 that allow parties to be closed by decision of the Constitutional Court. Possible changes include changing the criteria under which parties may be closed to resemble that established in EU countries (the party must advocate violence and/or seek to overthrow the state) and/or amending the process governing closure cases so that other institutions must consent to the case's opening.

Amendments to the constitution require a 2/3 majority in parliament or majority approval in a national referendum. Hopeful to strike a deal with MHP and thus avoid the confrontational political situation that would surely follow should AKP decide to take the amendments to referendum, AKP will be seeking the cooperation of MHP as it works out what any such amendment might look like. MHP has expressed support for examining law pertaining to party closures, but is holding onto all of its cards and will no doubt seek to exract significant concessions from AKP before agreeing to any sort of compromise. Important to MHP is that any such amendment in no way benefits DTP and that the power to prosecute individual party members be preserved. This would mean that the 71 members of AKP currently under indictment could still be banned from politics. It is unlikely that AKP will agree to this.

CHP and MHP have warned that taking amendments to referendum is unacceptable and a threat to the sanctity of Turkey's constitution. Meanwhile, the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen's Association (TÜSİAD) and the Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB) have urged that a compromise be reached that might stablize the situation. A compromise would ensure that AKP will not seek a referendum and thus run the risk of direct confrontation with the military establishment.

Worthy of a look is Orhan Kemal Cengiz's column in today's Turkish Daily News in which he assesses the possible outcomes of the closure case. Cengiz concurs with the dominant opinion that should the case be accepted and AKP does not seek constitutional reform to prevent its closure, the party's fate will be all but sealed.

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