Turkish opposition: No regrets over rejected constitutional amendment

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Turkey's parliament rejected on 3 May a constitutional amendment to make it harder to ban political parties, upsetting the government's plans to reform a charter written during military rule in the 1980s. A representative of the main Turkish opposition party told EURACTIV in an interview that the rejected article would have boosted the authoritarian government.

As the ruling AK party had unilaterally introduced a series of amendments which might have resulted in harming the independence and the impartiality of the judiciary, CHP, the Republican People's Party, does not regret the rejected amendment, Kader Sevinç, the party's representative to the EU in Brussels, told EURACTIV in an exclusive interview.

"The rejected article was […] boosting an authoritarian government style and making it impossible for the judiciary to intervene if, for example, a political party organises paramilitary groups," Sevinç said.

The AK party of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdo?an, which has roots in political Islam but denies ambitions to create an Islamic state, says the constitutional reforms are needed to bring Turkey closer to EU democratic norms.

But CHP, a European social-democratic party that has been promoting radical democratic and social reforms in Turkey, is of the position that some of the AKP's amendments seriously undermine the independence and the impartiality of the judiciary, increasing the already problematic influence of the executive on the system of nomination and promotion of judges and prosecutors, Sevinç said.

The EU has criticised Turkey's political parties law, under which almost 20 parties have been banned since the constitution was adopted in 1982 following a coup. In 2008, a court narrowly rejected a bid to shut down the ruling AKP, in power since 2002, but found it guilty of anti-secular activities and imposed financial penalties.

"The banning of political parties is a problem of democratic culture and the interpretation of laws. The current legislation can certainly be reformed, but not in the way proposed by the AKP government – replacing problems with more problems," Sevinç insisted.

Erdo?an had warned that he would call a referendum if he failed to secure the necessary number of votes for the reform package. But the surprise vote in parliament raised questions about the unity of AKP ahead of parliamentary elections set for July 2011.

Each of the 30 amendments requires 367 votes out of 550 in the AKP-dominated parliament to become law. The government can call a national referendum if it wins at least 330 votes.

Any amendment that receives fewer than 330 votes is dropped from the package. The proposal to change the political parties law, one of the key provisions in the package, won 327 votes, and is considered dead by political analysts.

The AK Party has 335 seats, meaning some of its MPs broke with party discipline and voted against the reform.

"As of 26 April, latest polls show that the AKP has around 29% of the vote and the CHP has around 26%. In any case, polls and public opinion may change," the CHP politician pointed out.

To read the full text of this interview, please click here.

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