Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Early Elections Seem an Increasing Likelihood

Today's Zaman reports that sources close to AKP have told the paper that the party is seriously considering calling early parliamentary elections so that it can secure the 2/3 majority it needs in parliament pass constitutional amendments needed to prevent its closure. The election would also have the anticipated effect of bulwarking AKP's popular mandate and making it more difficult to justify its closure. Due to AKP reform of Article 301, procuring MHP support for the package became an impossibility and with it any hope of securing the passage of constitutional amendments aimed to save AKP (see April 9 post). The paper quotes AKP Ankara deputy salih Kapusuz:
"The AK Party has three options in front of it. It will either do nothing and
wait for the Constitutional Court's decision, which apparently will not be in
its favor, or it will find support in Parliament to make the necessary changes
on political parties, though this also appears to be something very difficult,
or it will risk taking the package to the people and holding early elections. If
a referendum on the package and the early election are held on the same date,
this would turn into a "referendum of democracy." It is difficult for the AK
Party to find another way out."
Kapusuz suggested June 29 might be a good day to hold elections. Of note is that the election might also include a referendum on the constitutional amendments. According to Turkey's constitution, in order to call a referendum, parliament must pass the constitutional amendments by a simple majority. The vote would then be published in parliament's record and submitted to referendum. A simple majority vote is needed in the referendum for the amendments to become law. With 339 votes in parliament, AKP could easily pass the amendments with the expectation that they will fall short of the 2/3 majority required to become law and then prepare to have them approved by referendum. However, should the amendments be anulled by the Constitutional Court, there is no protection of the party from closure. Such a strategy also places AKP in a rush for time, as it must hold elections and pass amendments before the Court moves to close the party, and, of course, faced with such an aggressive strategy on the part of AKP, the Court might well be prompted to act quickly.

The paper also reports that AKP has not halted its plans to pass a new constitution as opposed to the ad hoc reforms it is currently seeking, but aspires to take up the constitution again following the elections and passage of the amendments. There might be a legal advantage in doing this as some legal experts claim that a new constitution can only be adopted by a newly-elected parliament. The party put on hold consideration of the constitutional draft an academic committee led by law professor Ergün Özbudun had devised.

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