Hisarcıklıoğlu’s TOBB on the fence over reform package

Hisarcıklıoğlu’s TOBB on the fence over reform package

TOBB President Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu

August 18, 2010, Wednesday/ 16:56:00
Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB) President Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu has maintained a subtle balance between “yes” and “no” in the Sept. 12 referendum on the government’s constitutional amendment package, though he has announced his own support for the reforms.

Hisarcıklıoğlu continued this stance on Monday, when he scheduled a meeting with Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), on the same day he met with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a TOBB council member told Today’s Zaman on the condition of anonymity.

This standpoint is a result of a decision made by TOBB in a bid to preserve a balance between its 1.2 million members, he said.

However, some 70 percent of TOBB member chambers said they will vote in favor of the constitutional amendment package. TOBB itself also announced its support for the referendum using the slogan “high-quality democracy, strong economy.”

“Despite the decision of the majority of our members in favor of amendments and our support for the package, we still refrain from saying ‘yes.’ This might be criticized and open to claims that such behavior does not suit TOBB. All of these criticisms are correct in a sense, but because the referendum has been highly politicized, we had to establish a balance. We have to take into account all of our 1.2 million members,” the source said.

Speaking after his meeting with the prime minister late on Monday, Hisarcıklıoğlu also expressed disapproval of the fact that the referendum has been politicized. “We should have been discussing its content,” he said.

During the meeting, they talked about pressing issues concerning the economy, Hisarcıklıoğlu noted. There are numerous structural problems preventing industrialists and especially exporters from developing further, he said, stressing that “TOBB believes in the necessity of a new constitution.”

“If Turkey wants to be among the world’s top 10 economies, a strong democracy is a sine qua non. This is why a new constitution will mark the beginning of Turkey’s structural transition and transformation.” TOBB has been conducting studies for a civilian constitution and has underlined this need regularly for the past five years, he added.

“But we are uncomfortable with this process being politicized. We do not vote for parties, this is a matter that is beyond parties,” Hisarcıklıoğlu noted. He also met with Kılıçdaroğlu on Monday to seek support from the CHP for legislation related to the economy.

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