The Justice and Development party (ak Party) announced its new program, which will serve as the agenda of the 61st government of the Republic of Turkey, on Friday. The new program is radically different from previous programs as it includes a timetable for every project included.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan read the new program in Parliament at a session held at 3 p.m. on Friday, two days after he introduced his new Cabinet. The party program is a continuation of the AK Party's election manifesto, which focuses on 2023, the centennial of the foundation of the Republic of Turkey, to complete ambitious goals and projects. However, it also includes promises that were not part of the election manifesto.
In his speech on Friday, Prime Minister Erdoğan said: “In our previous government program we had put forth realistic solutions. We became a stronger government by realizing these. As we produced solutions to our country's problems, we also survived a number of anti-democratic attempts [to stop us]. We never compromised either on the freedom or the livelihood of our nation.”
He said in its past nine years in government the AK Party had been able to break a number of taboos and was able to avert anti-democratic interventions while being able to not be distracted by attempts to divert the attention of the public to manufactured issues. “We have overcome every scheme and plot directed at weakening democratic politics. We broke taboos in democracy, in law and the economy. Today the field of politics is much wider than before and our country's reputation is much higher. Because we did not waste time with artificial issues, we became stronger with solutions. Our most important support has been this Parliament, where the will of the people is reflected.”
Erdoğan said Parliament's reconciliatory spirit shown during the adoption of EU-related laws and other fundamental pieces of legislation was beyond any kind of appreciation. He gave a message of reconciliation and compromise to overcome the current crisis in Parliament stemming from two opposition parties' resistance to take the parliamentary oath and to draft a new Constitution through consensus.
“We will continue to emphasize dialogue, the spirit of reconciliation and cooperation in the period ahead of us,” Erdoğan said, adding: “We now look to the future with higher hopes and confidence. We are setting targets for 2023, which is on the horizon. Our people have supported renewal with stability, the solution of problems and fulfilling targets. We are responsible to answer this call from our people by producing solutions to deep-rooted problems.”
He said the AK Party had shared with the public most of its projects and targets in the pre-election period, recalling that these goals were constructed with a vision of the year 2023. He said the new government will be shaping its first four years with the same vision. “Every step will bring us closer to the targets we set for the 100th anniversary.”
Erdoğan shared the government's new targets in health, transportation and education, where its past projects have received widespread appreciation. The 61st government program also included measures directed at addressing unemployment and increasing the level of welfare of the retired and other social segments.
Prime Minister Erdoğan also spoke at length on newly formed ministries as part of the AK Party's 2023 vision and how they fit in with the government's targets. The program also includes ambitious micro and macroeconomic goals as well as targets for the finance sector. Erdoğan said that for Turkey to reach its goal of becoming the world's 10th largest economy by 2023, it needed to increase its competitive power.
He said industrial products had an important share in the country's exports, but noted that the government continues to attach importance to the agricultural sector in the program of the 61st government. Erdoğan said incentives, support and policies seeking to increase productivity in agriculture would continue in the period ahead. He said the newly structured Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Animal Husbandry would support policies to strengthen agriculture.
New constitution and projects
Grand projects, such as the building of a new waterway through İstanbul province to reroute vessel traffic away from the Bosporus, take up an important space in the 61st government's program. Another ambitious plan is to draft and adopt a new and more democratic constitution to replace the 1982 Constitution, which was adopted two years after the bloody 1980 coup d'état.
Erdoğan said the new constitution should be based on freedoms, not on bans and restrictions. He said the new constitution should include guarantees to ensure judicial impartiality and independence. The prime minister said the constitution's wording should be clear enough to adequately eliminate ambiguities in the functioning of the political system. “The new constitution will be prepared through the widest participation, debate and consensus possible and then be submitted to a referendum.” He said they hoped to draft a shorter constitution that uses clear and articulate language. Human rights and pluralism will be at the core of the new constitution, he said.
The prime minister also promised changes to the Higher Education Board (YÖK), a body that was also established by the 1980 coup generals and that is often criticized for restricting the academic freedom and autonomy of universities. YÖK's powers over universities will be weakened and the body will be transformed into an inspection mechanism that grants accreditation to universities. He said the government sees it as a priority is to transform YÖK into a structure that will facilitate the self-development of universities.
Transportation projects make up a significant portion of the new government's program. The prime minister said the government plans to introduce high-speed rail to much of the country by 2015. He also said the government plans to step up current projects regarding new highways.
He had earlier reiterated AK Party projects that include the construction of a third airport in İstanbul, and constructing a second underwater passage across the Bosporus, in addition to the Marmaray project, which is currently under construction. The construction of Kanal İstanbul -- the new waterway through İstanbul province that will run parallel to the Bosporus -- will also start during this government's term. The long anticipated Galataport and Haydarpaşaport seaport projects will also commence in this period, Erdoğan said.
Existing railways stations will be upgraded or replaced by stations that will incorporate the new elements of the country's high-speed rail network. He said the total distance of high-speed railways in Turkey will reach 3,500 kilometers by 2015. Erdoğan also promised the completion of a new highway connecting Edirne to the southeastern province of Diyarbakır.
Talks in Parliament on the new program are scheduled to take place on Monday. Two days after that, on July 13, the program will be submitted to a vote of confidence.