Parliamentary committee amends controversial articles

October 09, 2007, Tuesday/ 20:08:00/ ALİ ASLAN KILIÇ
Articles in a reform package to be voted on at a referendum on Oct. 21, which suggested that the 11th president must be elected via public vote, were amended by the Parliamentary Constitutional Committee yesterday to prevent any legal challenges to President Abdullah Gül’s position as president.The reform package, which includes election of the president by a public vote, was prepared by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) when Parliament failed to elect the president in April.

Although the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) asked for the cancellation of the referendum, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) backed the referendum, lending support to the amendment of the 18th and 19th articles in the referendum text in order to prevent political chaos.

The current parliament, formed by snap polls in July, elected former Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül as Turkey’s 11th president, hence inclusion of an article in the referendum suggesting the election of the 11th president by a public vote would cause controversy over the legitimacy of Gül’s position, many analysts said.

The amendment of the relevant articles will be discussed in Parliament today (Tuesday) before they are put to a final vote next week. The amended articles will be legalized five days before the referendum date.

During yesterday’s discussions at the Constitutional Committee, CHP members asked for the halt of the entire referendum process on the grounds that it would bring no benefit to the country, while MHP Deputy Chairman Cihan Paçacı said that his party would support the amendments to prevent a crisis.

Constitutional Committee Chairman Burhan Kuzu, a Justice and Development Party (AK Party) member, said he personally did not see such an amendment as necessary, for he thinks the relevant articles would be valid for the 12th president, since the 11th had already been elected, however he said such an amendment would be made to stop ongoing discussions.

Sadullah Ergin, the AK Party deputy parliamentary group leader, countering CHP criticism about the need for the referendum, said that the reform package to be put to a referendum was not prepared arbitrarily, but to overcome a political deadlock regarding the election of the president. He denied that a “yes” vote’s coming out of the referendum would mean President Gül losing legitimacy. He explained that the AK Party had taken the decision to amend the two articles in the reform package in the light of calls from the CHP and MHP to defuse the controversy over the issue.

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