Adjustment laws, reforms already underway for new presidential system

ALI ÜNAL @ali_unal
Published 23.04.2017 23:46
Updated 24.04.2017 12:37
Minister Bozdağ said that the guidelines set up for voting by the election board cannot be interpreted in a way that voids people’s right to vote and the voters’ will.
Minister Bozdağ said that the guidelines set up for voting by the election board cannot be interpreted in a way that voids people’s right to vote and the voters’ will.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ said the government has started to work on making the necessary changes to adjust the new system, including political parties' law; local administrations' laws and laws for deputies on elections

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ said that with the accepted constitutional articles, the adjustment laws required by the presidential system would be discussed in Parliament. Providing information about the future reform program for the adjustment laws, Minister Bozdağ said they have already made preparations and that reformation of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors would be one of the first issues they will deal with. Bozdağ added that certain laws must be changed on the Supreme Military Court and the Military High Administrative Court and that adjustment laws will be implemented concerning political parties' law, local administrations law and members of Parliament laws on elections.

Meanwhile, following the historic April 16 referendum, the main opposition Republican People's Party appealed to the Supreme Election Board's (YSK); however, the council rejected the CHP application for the cancellation of the referendum. Commenting on this issue, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ said that achieving a simple majority in the referendum is constitutional, legitimate and lawful; no one can argue with it, while adding that the YSK made the right decision, as it has made many times before. Underlining that the CHP's application contradicts practices in previous elections, Minister Bozdağ said that the CHP pretends to be democratic, but doesn't act that way.Responding to harsh criticisms in Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) observer reports on the referendum, Minister Bozdağ said that both the EU and the Council of Europe have been sending rapporteurs who create a negative perception of Turkey, while adding that they distort truths about Turkey in their reports, causing you to misjudge the country.

Daily Sabah: How do you evaluate the Supreme Election Board's (YSK) rejection of the Republican People's Party's (CHP) application for cancellation of the referendum?

Bekir Bozdağ: The YSK made the right decision, as it has made many more times before. The YSK only organizes elections; real elections are held by parties. Every ballot box has five party representatives, and they are the ones who check voters' identities. After the ballot box is closed, the same people count the votes and convey reports to the party. The YSK only decides on complaints about these issues and organizes it. Therefore, it is political parties that are the life and blood of the elections. In this context, it is not possible to have fraud in elections, as everything is being reported.

Regarding the issue about unstamped envelopes, the YSK decided that they would be counted before the counting process had even started. The YSK stated that the rules are guideline for voting, and they cannot be used or interpreted in a way that voids people's right to vote because the voter's will is there, and it's a mistake by the ballot box committee. Disregarding this will would mean infringement of the right to vote.

DS: What is your take on discussions that election practices prior to and after 2010 are different?

Bekir Bozdağ: Practices prior to and after 2010 are the same. I have seen many decisions about this issue. Let me give as an example the decision that was made in 2015. Ballot box committees made a mistake in 2015, just like in the April 16 referendum and didn't stamp envelopes. The CHP filed an application to render unstamped envelopes valid. While the district election board wanted to count these ballots as invalid, the CHP opposed it. As a result, the CHP's objection was approved by the board, and unstamped envelopes were added to the count. The Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) also filed a similar application in 2015, and their objection was also approved by the board, rendering unstamped votes valid. What has changed that the CHP does the opposite of what they have done in the past? In the CHP's perspective, only if the decisions are in favor of the party are they agreeable.

I would like to state that alleging there is a change in election laws is nothing but a lie. If we look at the law in 2010, Article 98 emphasizes that envelopes should have two stamps on them and foresees a sanction if there aren't two stamps. In 2010, only a clarification is made; it was made clear that envelopes must be stamped by both the district election board and the ballot box committee. Therefore, the article is the same. Those who claim that the essence of the article has changed are lying. It's a shame that the main opposition leader, spokespeople and those who are graduates of law school are trying to deceive the people without remorse.

What will happen from now on? The CHP is talking about appealing to the Constitutional Court and the Council of State. Could you share your thoughts on this issue?

Deciding on and investigating all complaints about elections is the YSK's duty. One cannot appeal to any court, including the Constitutional Court, about these decisions, as they are final. If they do appeal, the said institutions can only reject the appeal in accordance with the Constitution. Individual applications on issues that the Constitutional Court left out of its jurisdiction are also not possible. On the other hand, no one can reverse a judgment that was decided by the people; the will of the people cannot be disregarded and their decision is binding for all.

The CHP pretends to be democratic, but doesn't act that way; similarly, they say that they respect the people, but they don't trust them. The CHP couldn't embrace democracy and the will of the people. The CHP is a party that doesn't believe in the people, acts in an undemocratic way and disregards the will of the people and laws.

What is the possibility of the CHP appealing to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) after domestic courts?

They can appeal, but they won't be able to have a result in their favor. There are some precedents, like the ones about the municipal elections of 2014; when you appeal to the ECHR on these issues, your application will be rejected, as these are issues out of the court's jurisdiction. One can only appeal to the ECHR for irregularities in judicial elections and nothing else. Therefore, appealing for municipal elections, along with parliamentary elections and referendums, will only conclude in rejection.

Indeed, the UK had previously taken the 1975 EU referendum to the ECHR, and the ECHR rejected the case on the basis that it was out of their jurisdiction. Similarly, in 1994, Finland took the EU referendum to the ECHR, and it was rejected by the ECHR again for the same reason. Therefore, it's clear that appealing to the ECHR won't yield any results for the CHP.

There are harsh criticisms in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) observer reports on the referendum. How do you respond to those criticisms?

I believe that for a long time both the EU and the Council of Europe have been sending rapporteurs who create a negative perception of Turkey. For who is also an important question: Are they doing this for the EU, the Council of Europe or terrorist organizations? I'm not sure. I would like to state that they aren't treating Turkey fairly in their reports, are not being objective and are deceiving both the EU and the Council of Europe.

I have only one thing to say to those international institutions that send observers, rapporteurs or commission members to Turkey: Be sure to check whether your representatives have any kind of connections with the PKK, DHKP-C, FETÖ and other terrorist organization and don't send those who have such connections to Turkey, as they will distort the truths about Turkey in their reports, causing you to misjudge the country. This is one of the main reasons of issues with the EU.

It was revealed that some of the said observers of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the OSCE supported the "no" campaign and have photos with the PKK flag. How do you evaluate this situation?

Nikolaj Villumsen of Denmark who is on both of the observer committees actively participated in the "no" campaign and collected aid for the YPG, the Syrian affiliate of the PKK. This rapporteur reported as if he was the rapporteur of the PKK, not the OSCE. Another one is German Deputy Andrej Hunko, who had his photo taken with PKK banners. Similarly, OSCE observer Spanish Lorena Lacalle had shared the so-called Kurdistan map on social media. There are many more examples. The OSCE has to question whether these people acted on behalf of the OSCE or terrorist organizations, as reports by the said individuals are extremely biased. Their reports aim to slander Turkey, overshadow the referendum and cause indignation both in Turkey and around the world. They have only included events that target us; therefore, the reports lack a holistic perspective.

Now, they are trying to create the perception that the "no" campaign was being oppressed. I would like them to show such an incident and prove its existence. On the other hand, a couple of days before the referendum, CHP Deputy Hüsnü Bozkurt said that regardless of the results, they would once again go to Samsun, referring to Atatürk's journey that started the Turkish War of Independence, and they would drown us in the sea in İzmir, referring to the defeat of the Greeks in the War of Independence. He threatened all people that would vote "yes" in the referendum. Why was this statement disregarded by the rapporteur? For instance, several people working for the "no" campaign wore masks and went to a coffee house in Okmeydanı, Istanbul, and they threatened the people there with guns. They said they would kill them if anyone of them voted "yes." All of these instances were disregarded by the rapporteurs.

Instead, they have gathered and compiled all the statements made by terrorist organizations and groups that work against Turkey, naming it as the OSCE report. This report is of no value. Anyone who tries to evaluate the referendum in Turkey with reference to this would be making a mistake, as the rapporteurs of this report are biased and unjust with regard to Turkey.

Last week, the CHP spokesperson implied that they might withdraw from Parliament; however, that same day, this statement was denied by the CHP group deputy chairman. In your opinion, what are the reasons behind these contradicting statements?

It's a reflection of the confusion amongst the CHP; some of them want to return to grassroots politics, while others object. I believe Selin Sayek Böke's statement reveals that this was the initial decision that was taken during their meeting, as spokespeople speak for the party and know anything they say will be attributed to the party. Therefore, I believe it was a statement made on behalf of the party; however, this decision was later changed, leading to contradictory statements. The CHP has both the words "republic" and "people" in its name. I would like to say to them that respecting the will of the people is the duty of all who believes in democracy. It is the people who make us strong in politics; disregarding their will when the outcome is not in your favor is a great disrespect to them. Some people are complaining about relatively smaller Anatolian cities such as Yozgat, Bayburt, and Elazığ on social media, asking how these cities could determine their fate. I would like to ask those who identify themselves as democrats: Why are you having such a hard time accepting that all people living in this country are equal? In state law, everyone is equal; thus, their votes are equal. I'm asking the CHP to not repeat the same mistakes as some people do and trust in the people.

People have given a chance to the CHP. The opposition in Turkey was able to garner about 36 percent of the votes in the last elections; however, the "no" votes were around 49 percent. The CHP should ask itself where all those votes came from. These votes came from those people who have been insulted by CHP supporters. If you continue to insult the people, they won't vote again for you or your campaigns; I believe many of them are already regretting their decision after all these insults. It is disrespectful to say that you don't recognize the results.

There was a referendum in 1987 that was about lifting the political bans on certain politicians; 49.9 percent said no, while 50.1 percent said yes. There were people and social democratic people's parties at the time and they voted yes. Kılıçdaroğlu and his companions didn't say a word about not recognizing the results. Similarly, Özal who campaigned for "no" didn't say that he didn't recognize the result; they all respected the will of the people. Look at Brexit; the results were 49 percent no, 51 percent yes; however, were there similar discussions there? No, not even one. No one tried to deceive the people with lies and tried to create chaos and crisis by forcing people to march on the streets because they are truly democratic and respect the will of the people. In our country, some just claim that they know best and the people are ignoramuses, which is highly disrespectful.

The U.S. presidential elections, for instance. No one discusses whether Trump is the legitimate president or not, even though he received fewer popular votes than Clinton, while having more Electoral College delegates. These processes aren't about cunning, bullying or tricks; it is all about trusting the people. True democrats believe in the people. Achieving a simple majority in the referendum is constitutional, legitimate and lawful; no one can argue with it.

What is your take on Kılıçdaroğlu's statement that everyone should protest the decision of the YSK?

I have to express my sadness in seeing Kılıçdaroğlu employing the discourse of terrorist organizations. What is there to protest? Everything was witnessed by the people and the CHP. All the ballot reports were seen and signed by the representatives of all parties. You cannot render a valid document that was approved by everyone invalid with tricks. A true democrat wouldn't say, "I don't recognize these results," but would say, "I respect those who voted, regardless of their choices."

What we have to do now is to adapt ourselves to the new system. The CHP will also have to adapt to this system, while thanking the people for making a decision. On the contrary, the CHP is calling on people to take to the streets and calling for chaos. This is not the way. You cannot achieve anything with it. Uniting people, not dividing them, will be beneficial for all.

He is still not aware that the times have changed; Turkish democracy has barred all those who tried to cause chaos and crisis from government. If he continues to employ the discourses of terrorist organizations like the DHKP-C, forming the government will only remain a dream for him. It's not possible to garner the support of a simple majority by calling to create chaos. It's a new era of tolerance and compassion; relying on crises and chaos will only harm the party.

There are discussions about reimplementation of the death penalty. Council of Europe officials have stated that if Turkey re-implements the death penalty, the country's membership in the council will be terminated. How do you evaluate this statement?

It is Turkey and its Parliament that will decide this issue. Turkey determines its own laws in accordance with its own needs and developments around the world. Turkey is a sovereign, independent country. However, there haven't been any steps taken for this matter, not yet. We will see what is going to happen in the following days. Our political parties will evaluate this matter and will reach a conclusion. This decision will be taken by us, with our own will, not with suggestions from Europe.

The adjustment laws required by the presidential system are to be discussed in Parliament. What are these laws, could you tell us?

With the accepted constitutional articles, the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors is being reformed. There are also certain laws on the Supreme Military Court and the Military High Administrative Court. On the other hand, there are adjustment laws that will be implemented with regard to political parties law, local administrations law and members of Parliament laws on elections. As these laws are under the jurisdiction of our ministry, we have already started to work on them. After the definite results of the referendum are published in the Official Gazette, we will send our work to the Council of Ministers, and the enactment process will begin. Moreover, there are certain issues that require harmonization, according to instructions from the prime minister. A commission will be formed, and the work will be done in a short time.

Is there a certain deadline to implement these laws?

There is a six-month period that is about preparation. These periods encourage and incentivize you to complete the work swiftly. Most of these laws will be accomplished within this six-month period; instead of a complete overhaul, we will be realizing the changes required for harmonization. As this is the case, sometimes we will change certain words, certain expressions and certain articles. We will do a scan for this process and will see how much we have to change after.

Even if all these changes cannot be implemented before the new system comes into force, there won't be any problems due to provisions. The important part is this: The title of prime minister is removed and replaced by the president. Certain provisions on these references were already regulated, and the laws will be revised according to these references. As there are many references, it might take some time to correct each and every one of them. So, we may consider writing an article on these references to hasten the process.

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