Speaking at an iftar (fast-breaking dinner) organized for journalists serving in Ankara, SP leader Numan Kurtulmuş said his party will stage rallies in more than 10 provinces and that party members will gather with locals at mass iftars until Sept. 12, when the nation votes on a number of constitutional amendments approved in Parliament in May.
Underlining that what Turkey needs is a brand new constitution, Kurtulmuş said: “We have to prepare the nation for the constitutional amendment process, which will totally change the system of tutelage in Turkey. That is why we support the current amendment proposals, however insufficient they may be.” Noting that his party supports the constitutional amendment package because it is a positive step toward a new constitution, Kurtulmuş said: “We will say ‘yes’ on Sept. 12, 2010 and ‘no’ on Sept. 13, 2010. It is not sufficient. We are saying ‘yes’ until a new one is made with the nation.”
On Sept. 12, the nation will vote on a number of constitutional changes approved by Parliament in May. Among other things, the reform package includes changes to the structure of the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK). Furthermore, the package repeals Provisional Article 15 of the Constitution, which gives immunity to the generals responsible for the Sept. 12, 1980 coup.
Kurtulmuş underlined that what will be voted on in the referendum is not the performance of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party). The nation will vote on the reform package, not the AK Party. Stating that a “yes” coming out of the referendum will not be a vote of confidence for the ruling party, he also said a “no” also does not imply mistrust in the AK Party, either. Kurtulmuş said that during his party’s “yes” campaign, party members will hold many meetings with locals and send letters to people, calling on them to vote in the affirmative in the referendum.
“During the campaign, we will say that all tutelary systems in Turkey, including military tutelage over politics, should be changed. The changes to be made to the structure of the HSYK and the Constitutional Court are positive. We will also tell the people about abolition of Article 15,” he said.
Turkey’s current Constitution was in the wake of the military coup of Sept. 12, 1980. The supreme law governing Turkey has been criticized for lacking the democratic nature and basic regard for rights and freedoms that this era requires.
Constitutional reforms have been repeatedly recommended by the European Union, with which Turkey has been continuing accession negotiations for five years, and the government’s proposed package has been hailed by the EU. The date of the referendum in an ironic coincidence marks the 30th anniversary of the coup that left Turkey with its current constitution.
Kurtulmuş also touched upon the recent tug-of-war among political party leaders ahead of the referendum, in particular the one between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. Noting that the recent polemics bring nothing positive to Turkey, he said opposition parties and the government are failing to meet on Turkey’s most crucial issues such as terrorism due to this tension.
Noting that it is wrong that Kılıçdaroğlu and Erdoğan are separating the nation into two camps, Kurtulmuş complained that Turkey has suffered much from such polarizations in the past. The SP leader also offered a prediction regarding the results of the referendum, saying he thinks at least 55 percent of the voters will vote in favor of the package on Sept. 12.