Don’t close the door on the CHP

After returning from the US, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan shut the doors to the Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) offers of “compromise.” In my opinion, this was the wrong thing to do, and he should have continued to keep the doors open to the CHP’s offer. 

It is hard to understand the political analysis behind saying “no” to the CHP suggesting to take three articles to a referendum. In the final analysis, this is a comprehensive constitutional amendment, and it is a rule of thumb to secure as extensive a consensus as possible for constitutional amendments.
In the competitive environment of politics, you may not want to stick to the essential orthodoxy of political philosophy. But, in my opinion, it is illogical for the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) to turn down the CHP’s proposal. There are several possibilities that one can offer as an explanation as to what might have been in Erdoğan’s mind when he said “no” to the CHP. First of all, he might be motivated by a desire to not share the electoral return of these efforts at democratization with the CHP. I must say that this is not a very understandable desire. Indeed, even if the CHP throws substantial support behind this package, everyone knows that the driving force behind these democratization efforts is the AK Party. If/when this move brings about any political gain, the ruling party will surely get the largest share of it.

If Mr. Erdoğan seeks to ensure that in return for the CHP’s support for the rest of the articles, the CHP should not take the three articles to the Constitutional Court, this is not a very reasonable request from a political perspective. He may try to persuade the CHP, but he cannot tell them not to refer the articles in question to the court as they have always trumpeted that they will never lend support to those three articles.

The package was approved at the parliamentary Constitution Commission and sent to the General Assembly of Parliament, but this does not mean that it is too late to search for a compromise. Let me reiterate an unwritten rule of the existing political system in Turkey: If there is any likelihood for the CHP lending support to the AK Party-initiated constitutional amendments, then this support must be secured at all costs. Indeed, while in the past it categorically said “no” and objected and aggressively opposed almost all major constitutional amendments, the CHP has for the first time voiced a relatively reasonable proposal. Even for the sake of the rehabilitation of a chronically dissident mentality that has made it a habit to say “no” to everything, the government should have adopted a positive attitude toward the CHP’s proposal.

Moreover, the package, be it a three-article or a 30-article one, will eventually be referred to the people. If Erdoğan believes there will be a big difference between the percentage of the vote the package will get in either case, I think he is wrong. There may be a small difference, but small nonetheless.

Turkish voters categorically tend to endorse all sorts of efforts to rehabilitate the system. This is what will happen in the current case. Here, it is not important what the CHP’s ulterior motives are. With self-confidence, the AK Party should say “yes” to this proposal. Otherwise, the troubles it faces with respect to its sincerity in terms of compromise will multiply exponentially. 
17 April 2010, Saturday