The leader of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) has expressed strong opposition to proposed constitutional amendments that would grant additional executive powers to the president, saying the legislators who ratify the bill will be betraying the public.
“Those who say ‘yes’ to this will be betraying the citizens who voted for him/her. They are giving the authority to annul the parliament, which represents 100 percent of the people, to a president who was elected by 51 percent of the votes,” Kemal Kilicdaroglu said in an address to members of his party during a meeting in the capital, Ankara.
The constitutional changes have been on proposed by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). If adopted, the amendments should be put to a national referendum before becoming law.
The proposed constitution would take Turkey away from its current parliamentary system, and introduce an executive presidency, a system of government long sought by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The opposition leader added supporting the draft charter is “a treason” against the public will, calling on Turkish citizens to oppose the constitutional reform package.
“I call out to all citizens. If you respect what is right, you will oppose this constitution,” he said.
Kilicdaroglu’s remarks came on the same day that the Turkish parliament voted to press on with debate about the amendments.
Kilicdaroglu also asked whether Turkey could be delivered to just one person. “Is Turkey such a small country? Whoever that might be, we are against this system,” he pointed out.
The CHP leader further criticized the government for police attacks on people protesting the constitutional amendments in Ankara, arguing that the country’s constitutional change could not be done in such a manner.
“There is a state of emergency. Nobody can speak due to fear. Anyone can be arrested at any moment. All the belongings of the people can be confiscated at any moment,” he said.
Turkish lawmakers cast their votes during a debate for a constitutional reform package at the Turkish parliament in the capital, Ankara, on January 10, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
“The constitution will be amended, but there are police water cannon vehicles deployed around the parliament building. What has happened? Is there a war? We are changing the constitution in such an environment,” Kilicdaroglu argued.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim had said earlier that Ankara continued “to work on changing the system to ensure instability is removed from Turkey’s political history absolutely.”
He further claimed that the bill would protect Turkey against any future coup attempt.
The drive for the constitutional change and expanding Erdogan’s powers come as the AKP has 317 of 550 seats in the parliament. Calling a referendum on the constitution in Turkey requires 330 votes, which means the governing party needs more than a dozen votes from its allies in the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
The Turkish legislature’s second- and third-biggest parties, the Republican People’s Party and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), both oppose the intended constitutional reforms.
Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli has said the referendum could take place in March, April or May.