Citizens seek change with charter referendum: Turkish PM

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Turkey’s citizens are awaiting major changes with a new constitution that is set for a public vote, according to Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım. 

“The citizens are pushing for a change, they want change. We will not be the side that resists it,” he said during an address at a governing board meeting of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Jan. 25.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan echoed a similar stance while speaking to journalists in Madagascar during a press meeting with his counterpart, Hery Rajaonarimampianina. 

The new charter draft will offer solutions to many existing problems, said Yıldırım. 

He slammed the opposition’s criticism of the amendment for violating the separation of powers between the legislative, executive and judiciary, while also diminishing the power of parliament. 

He argued that the amendment, on the contrary, strengthened parliament’s work.

“General debates, written questions, parliamentary inquiries, lawmaking and the power to supervise president [will all be featured]. [The parliament] will have the right to call the ministers to account,” Yıldırım said. 

“In the existing system, the parliament does what the ruling party wants, let’s be frank. But with the new system, the parliament, as a separate legal entity, [will be in a place in which] each lawmaker can propose a law, defend it and make it come into effect,” he said.

“The power of the lawmakers will be enhanced, leaving room for lawmakers to spare more time for national matters,” he added. 

Yıldırım also argued that the top judicial body would reflect the public will.

“Actually, the power of the parliament will increase. Why, because parliament also determines the administrative structure of the top judiciary, or some part of it. It will be determined by the president and the parliament. These two bodies, the president and the parliament, are elected by the public will; hence, the judiciary will reflect the public will,” he said.

The prime minister also reiterated the AKP’s answer to suggestions that Turkey was undergoing a regime change. He said it was not a regime change but a system change.

“They make a fuss arguing about a regime change,” he said. “Their rush is for their own prosperity, not for that of Turkey. Turkey is not going anywhere. Their hastiness stems from their own desires.”

The draft is now waiting for Erdoğan’s approval after parliament approved the constitutional amendment package with 339 votes, exceeding the threshold for the referendum. 

Erdoğan said in Antananarivo that he would not lose time in signing the draft. 

“The opposition can appeal to the Constitutional Court. We do not have a preemptive right to ask them why they do so; we are used to such things,” he said. “I hope the Constitutional Court will make its decision soon because the citizens are in a great excitement about what their steps on this issue will be,” he said.

Following the signature of the president, the YSK will declare an election date.

“The constitutional amendment will take place probably at an available date in the first half of April. I believe the exact date will be declared within the week,” Yıldırım said. 

“This constitution amendment has been prepared with an understanding that introduces solutions to issues that have been discussed in countries that are ruled with an executive presidential system, also named the presidential system,” Yıldırım told a group of economy journalists on Jan. 24 in Ankara. 

The name of the suggested new system is the “presidential government system,” Yıldırım said. 

“What we are doing is harmonizing the current situation with the constitution,” he said. 

With the new system, citizens will not mind whether a single party or a coalition government is in power but will expect the ruling side to fulfill its promises, he added.

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