Turkey's new gov't wins confidence vote, pro-Kurdish BDP boycotts

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan won a confidence vote on Wednesday to push ahead with plans to rewrite the constitution.

July 14, 2011, Thursday/ 01:00:00

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan won a confidence vote on Wednesday to push ahead with plans to rewrite the Constitution, but a Parliament boycott by Kurdish lawmakers soured his calls for cross-party consensus.    

Erdoğan's Justice and Development Party (AK Party) won a third consecutive term in a June 12 election with 50 percent of the vote, short of the two-thirds majority he needed to change the Constitution at will. He has since pledged to work with the opposition to draft a new charter to replace one drafted after a military coup in 1980.    

The issue of greater rights for Turkey's minority Kurds is likely to dominate the debate on a new charter in the European Union candidate country, but the main pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) has boycotted Parliament in protest at court rulings that barred some of its jailed elected candidates from taking seats.    

Analysts say drafting a new charter without input from the BDP, the largest party representing the Kurds, would undermine efforts to end a 27-year conflict with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has cost more than 40,000 lives.    

Turkey's main opposition party, the Republican People's Party (CHP), which won 135 seats in the 550-seat Parliament, ended its boycott this week after reaching an agreement with the AK Party on two elected CHP candidates who have also been barred for being in jail. The agreement called for joint legal efforts to allow the jailed deputies a way of taking their oaths.

Erdoğan urged the BDP to take their oath before Parliament reconvenes on Oct. 1, after the summer recess.

The BDP won a higher-than-expected 36 seats.    

"I hope that an agreement will be reached with BDP, similar to that agreed with the main opposition party, and BDP comes to the Parliament as soon as possible, and take their oaths in the Parliament," Erdoğan told reporters after the vote.    

"We want all four parties to sit down together and discuss the constitution. NGOs and academics should be involved in the making of the new draft."

ECONOMY CONCERNS

While Erdoğan has said reforming the Constitution is his number one goal, markets hope the government will prioritize the need to cool an economy that surged 11 percent in the first quarter of 2011, and could rack up a current account deficit of up to 10 percent of GDP this year.    

Under Erdoğan, Turkey has been transformed from serial basket case to one of the world's fastest growing economies, but there are worries that it could be set for a hard landing unless the new government tightens fiscal and monetary policy fast.    

Worries the central bank is reluctant to raise interest rates despite strong growth and a weak global backdrop have weighed on Turkish assets this year. Stocks have shed almost 4 percent since the start of the year and the lira currency has weakened more than 6 percent.    

Erdoğan's has retained Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek to manage the economy and has created a new ministry to press Ankara's flagging EU membership bid.    

Besides finding ways to revive its stalled EU bid and break down French and German reluctance to let Turkey in, Erdoğan will have pressing foreign policy issues on his plate.    

Ahmet Davutoğlu, the architect of NATO member Turkey's assertive foreign policy and closer ties to Middle East countries including Iran, remains foreign minister at a time when "Arab Spring" revolts are testing Turkey's interests.    

Turkey and Erdoğan's party are often cited as models for supporters of democracy living through the "Arab Spring" series of anti-authoritarian protests.    

Erdoğan's new government received 322 votes in the confidence vote in the 550-seat Parliament, a routine procedure at the start of every new Parliament.

 

 

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