The settlement of the Kurdish issue will depend on these developments around the Constitution. Now that the Constitution will be changed or now that the expectations of a change to the Constitution are shaping political developments, Turkey will experience heated debates about the system, and this will continue for a long time to come.
The pre-referendum debates provided sufficient hints about the course for constitutional developments. The CHP, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) turned the referendum into a general election in order to challenge the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party). On the other hand, the AK Party insistently stressed that it was not a general election, but a vote on the constitutional. In the end, the AK Party achieved a victory by achieving greater than expected electoral support. So we can conclude that it was a winning move to change the Constitution. Political parties will try to secure political advantages by using constitutional amendments. With one exception: the MHP.
MHP’s and BDP’s opposition to constitutional amendments
The MHP joined the referendum battle although it had nothing to do with it. It waged the wrong war. If they had said “yes” to the referendum package, they would not have lost much. Instead, by opposing the package with weak justifications, it pitted itself against its own voter base. Eventually, it sustained the biggest defeat in the referendum.
The MHP needs to sustain the status quo in order to survive. It can only continue on its path by repeating its referendum error. Given the CHP is now favoring change, the MHP can exist only by resisting change. Since the constitutional amendments will introduce changes to the political system, the MHP has to secure the backing of those who dislike this change.
The BDP will seek a settlement on the Kurdish issue in a new constitution. It has already announced that it will demand a change in the definition of citizenship and the inclusion of the status of the Kurdish language, and this will certainly put much pressure on the Constitution.
If we put the new constitution on a spectrum according to the party policies, the BDP will be located at the far left while the MHP will be positioned at the far right and both will confront each other. The MHP’s rebirth on a platform of maintaining the status quo will be sustained by its efforts to resist the BDP’s demands. Therefore, it can be said that the constitutional debates will see battles between the MHP and the BDP.
The MHP is a party that flourishes on the Kurdish issue. If the new constitution can settle the Kurdish issue, then the MHP will resist the drafting of a new constitution. Thus the political competition will be shaped by a confrontation between the MHP and the BDP over constitutional concepts and principles, with a balance to be established by the CHP and the AK Party.
CHP’s new position
Some people try to see the CHP’s future through Kılıçdaroğlu and they are wrong to compare him with former CHP leader Deniz Baykal. Baykal was an experienced and agile politician. His oration skills and theatrical style were imposing. Compared to Baykal’s rhetorical and organizational abilities, the new CHP leader is certainly dwarfed. But Kılıçdaroğlu has a quality that makes these personality comparisons meaningless. This difference is key to providing a good boost for the CHP: Kılıçdaroğlu has none of the encumbrances that Baykal had. These encumbrances were such that they would keep not only Baykal, but also the CHP dead still and unable to make any progress. In politics, such encumbrances are accumulated as one covers great distances and encounters great obstacles. In comparison, Kılıçdaroğlu is a novice politician and he is starting afresh on a clean page that has just been turned for him.
It is very hard to be innovative in politics. If a politician can analyze the circumstances correctly and make the correct moves at the right time, he can be successful. He may not do the most proper thing, but it is important to be bold and not to miss the right timing. Kılıçdaroğlu’s new constitution move has been correctly timed for the CHP. If this move had been made by Baykal, the prime minister’s “I don’t think he is sincere” objection would have been agreed on even by members of the CHP. This is the difference that gives Kılıçdaroğlu the advantage for the time being. Sad and disappointed, he responds to prime minister, asking why he does not believe his sincerity.
Kılıçdaroğlu is offering cooperation so that the new constitution can be smoothly drafted. He says that they may arrive at an agreement over the great majority of the articles of the new constitution in just one week. Instead of maintaining the status quo, the CHP favors change. This is a great change for Turkish politics. This is such a great change that it has the potential to make the CHP a contender for assuming office as a single-party government.
Very serious steps are being taken for the solution to the terrorism issue. The most important indicator of this is the restrained language used by BDP politicians. The rumor that Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants have left the borders of Turkey, and the increased traffic of visitors in the region, seem to be signaling that the institutional structure of terror will soon be terminated. Then, the settlement of the Kurdish issue will be discussed. The policy the CHP is pursuing in the face of these developments has the potential of making things easier for the government. The CHP is raising the bar for solution to a higher position.
The confrontation based on the new constitution may introduce a two-party system to Turkey. How?
If the government adopts a positive stance in the face of the CHP’s new constitution offer, the currently mild atmosphere in politics will be reinforced. The abolition of the 1982 Constitution and introduction of a new constitution through cooperation between the government and the opposition will further boost hopes of increased standards for freedom in Turkey. What will be the gains for the CHP in this environment? A lot. For this reason, the move for a new constitution is such an important step that it may make the CHP a winner at the next election.
Against whom? This question has already been answered by the MHP leader. Against the MHP. The move that may bring a two-party system to Turkey is this constitution move which the CHP is extending with an olive branch to the AK Party. The MHP leader is wrong to describe this project as a conspiracy, but it is nothing but pure politics. This time the MHP has to oppose to the constitution project and be excluded. Then, it will be inevitable for the MHP to marginalize further in this mild political climate and fall below the election threshold. If the Kurdish issue is settled by the new constitution, the MHP will trickle to nothing. Then, a two-party system will flourish in Turkey. Or the reverse may occur as well. If the Kurdish issue cannot be settled, the MHP may grow out of these debates.
The CHP’s constitution move is playing into the hands of the AK Party as well. First, a strengthened CHP will ensure that electoral support of some small and marginal parties will be diverted to the AK Party in the face of growing CHP danger. This particularly includes Felicity Party (SP) votes.
Secondly, the AK Party has a greater advantage when it comes to a new constitution. It would be difficult for the CHP to compete with the AK Party in relation to freedoms. However, the prime minister is not keen on the idea of drafting a new constitution just before the election. The reason for this may be the fact that the general elections will be overshadowed by constitutional debates, thus preventing the AK Party from marketing or publicizing its economic achievements. Moreover, a new beginning on a new constitution will be easier with electoral support freshly secured in the election.
The AK Party’s objection will not prevent every issue in Turkey from being included in the constitutional debates. Turkey will stay in a political climate characterized by debates on the political system for a long time.