Hopes for simultaneous elections diminishing

May 05, 2007, Saturday/ 20:18:00
If the constitutional reform package proposed by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) is submitted to a referendum, early parliamentary elections cannot be held simultaneously with the referendum.

The package to be negotiated in Parliament on Sunday brings the risk of postponing the early general elections, currently scheduled for July 22, to the fall. The number of AK Party deputies is not sufficient to eliminate the risk of the package being submitted to a referendum by President Ahmet Necdet Sezer. Despite the fact that it is backed by nine Motherland Party (ANAVATAN) deputies, the package must receive the support of two-thirds of all deputies (367) in order to eliminate this risk.

If the package receives the support of 330 to 366 deputies, Sezer will have the option to put it to a referendum. Although the government had previously declared that they would risk a referendum, a period of at least 120 days must be given to the Higher Election Board (YSK) for it to make preparations for the referendum, which is the option Sezer will definitely chose, political analysts say.

If the government opts for early parliamentary elections simultaneously with the referendum, the elections will have to be held in fall, which is the option preferred by opposition parties, due to the 120-day provision.

Sezer to determine fate of package

If the package passes with 367 deputies voting for it, it will be submitted to Sezer for approval. Sezer can examine the package for 15 days. If Sezer vetoes the package, the Parliament will re-negotiate it in the relevant commission and at its plenary session. If Parliament enacts it without introducing any changes, it will be submitted once more to Sezer for approval, and Sezer will be entitled to examine it for another 15 days. If Sezer still objects, he may put it to a referendum.

Under the Law on Taking Constitutional Amendments to Referendum, a referendum can be held on the first Sunday 120 days following the promulgation of the law pertaining to the constitutional amendment in the Official Gazette.

If the package is enacted on May 16 at the latest and if Sezer vetoes it twice, the earliest date for the referendum will be in October 2007. If, during the referendum, one plus half of all valid votes are cast, it will be deemed approved. The president of Turkey will be elected directly by the people after this process.

Impartial ministers issue

Under Article 114 of the Constitution, the justice, interior and transportation ministers will resign in five days for the early elections. The constitutional provision intends to ensure the impartiality of these ministries during the elections.

Thus, Justice Minister Cemil Çiçek, Interior Minister Abdulkadir Aksu and Transportation Minister Binali Yıldırım will resign within five days. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will nominate three impartial persons for their posts and submit the names to Sezer for approval.

Article 114 says: “Prior to general parliamentary elections, the ministers of justice, interior and transportation must step down. This should be put into effect three days before the elections begin; however, if a decision is made to hold the elections before the five-year Parliament term ends, the three ministers will resign within five days of making the decision, with three nominees, to be chosen by the prime minister from among independent MPs or outside the parliament, being appointed to the posts by the prime minister.”

According to recent convention, the assistant undersecretaries of these ministers are usually appointed to these positions. Independent deputies or persons outside the Parliament too may be appointed. Thus, Undersecretaries İbrahim Şahin, Fahri Kasırga and Şahabettin Harput may be appointed to the Transportation, Justice, and Interior ministries, respectively.

However, there are still questions about who will be appointed transportation minister. Transportation Undersecretary İbrahim Şahin had previously been nominated as the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) general director and a Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) member but was vetoed by Sezer each time. Therefore, he may be vetoed again by Sezer if he is nominated to this new post. The AK Party is reportedly not considering the appointment of anyone from amongst the independent deputies in Parliament.

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