PM Yıldırım meets opposition MHP leader as constitutional talks finalize


Ongoing talks regarding the presidential system between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) are expected to be brought to a conclusion today as Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and MHP Chairman Devlet Bahçeli hold a meeting at Çankaya Palace in Ankara at 2 p.m. on Nov. 30. AK Party spokesman Yasin Aktay said yesterday that despite uncertainties, a joint declaration of an amendment that is mutually agreed upon is highly likely. "I cannot talk about the specifics of the amendment, as the details are not yet confirmed; however, I believe it is very likely that a public announcement regarding the presidential system will be made tomorrow [Dec. 1]," Aktay stated.

If a joint declaration is made, the constitutional amendment is expected to be submitted to the Parliament's Constitutional Commission for discussion before being voted upon at the general assembly within a matter of days.Earlier this week, AK Party Deputy and Parliamentary Constitutional Commission Chairman Mustafa Şentop signaled that talks were nearing their conclusion, asserting, "We will present a proposal on the constitutional amendment to parliament within 15 days. We will also present the proposal for constitutional change to the people of Turkey in a referendum this spring." Şentop's words came during a speech he gave at a conference at Namık Kemal University, in which he also emphasized differences in state structure between the U.S. and Turkey, asserting that the notion of Turkey being divided into provinces with the passage of the amendment is wrong. "Turkey is a unilateral state with a centralized legislative, executive and judicial branch, unlike the U.S., which has two governmental bodies: One at the federal level and one at the state level, while the latter passes and regulates state laws according to the body of people it governs," Şentop said.

In addition, MHP Leader Bahçeli told members of the press that significant progress has been made in the talks since the MHP's weekly parliamentary group meeting, saying, "I believe that soon the proposal will be submitted to the Parliamentary Constitutional Commission, after certain complications are sorted out."

The two parties initially agreed on a gradual process during constitutional amendment talks. Once the final version of the draft bill is agreed upon, it will be compiled and sent to the relevant body -- the Parliamentary Constitutional Commission -- for review, before being brought to the parliamentary general assembly for a vote. According to the Turkish constitution, constitutional changes can be directly passed only if approved by two-thirds of the deputies in Parliament, which corresponds to 367 of the 550 parliamentarians. Currently, the AK Party has 317 seats in parliament while the MHP has 40; meaning the two parties do not hold enough seats in parliament to pass the proposal directly.

In spite of this, if the proposal receives between 330 and 366 votes, the proposed constitutional change can be brought to a referendum, an issue which Prime Minister Yıldırım said would be rightfully resolved by the citizens of the republic, asserting, "[The Turkish people] make the best decisions; therefore, the problem will be resolved by the citizens of Turkey."

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