UPDATE – ‘Appeal to nation’ on presidential system for Turkey


President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggests asking public over changes to Turkey’s political model


ANKARA – President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday suggested an “appeal to the nation” over changing Turkey’s political system in the wake of the collapse of constitutional talks.

It was unclear whether the president was calling for a referendum on changing Turkey’s parliamentary system for a presidential model.

His remarks came after Tuesday’s dissolution of the Constitution Conciliation Committee after opposition deputies walked out.

Addressing his remarks to “prestigious members at the parliament”, Erdogan called on lawmakers to “take a decision” on forming a new constitution.

“Say ‘We will appeal to the nation’,” he said. “Go to the nation. See what the nation tells you. Prepare, present it to the nation. If the nation says ‘Yes’, does not sovereignty rest unconditionally with the nation?”

On Tuesday, Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputies left the committee over discussions on the introduction of a presidential system amid constitutional talks.

Although all of Turkey’s parliamentary parties agree the need for reforming a constitution that in part dates back to military rule in the early 1980s, the opposition is wary of abandoning the parliamentary system.

CHP members of the committee entered the talks having said they would not contemplate negotiation on replacing Turkey’s parliamentary model with a presidential system.

Speaking at a meeting of local administrators at the presidential palace in Ankara, Erdogan said: “We will release our new constitution within the framework of building of new Turkey. The presidential system will be realized in this way. If this nation does not want a presidential system, we have nothing to say to the nation.”

Earlier, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu asked lawmakers to resume the talks.

“I am calling on political parties once more to continue these efforts and say that we need to keep a framework at the table so every issue can be discussed without preliminary conditions,” he told a science and technology conference in Ankara.

“I ask Mr. Parliamentary Speaker [Ismail Kahraman] to sustain his will to continue this favorable enterprise he started.”

Kahraman echoed the prime minister’s comments in calling for committee members from the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party and opposition parties — the CHP, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) — to return to negotiations.

“I hope the CHP will give a positive response to this call,” Kahraman told reporters in parliament. He said that talks could continue without the CHP.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus warned that the public would punish those who turned away from a new constitution and said the CHP would be seen as having “run away” from constitutional reform.

The AK Party has made constitutional reform a central part of its government program.

The committee first met on Feb. 3. It is chaired by Kahraman and made up of three deputies from the four parliamentary parties.

The MHP later said they would like to see the committee’s work continue. “We desire the Constitution Conciliation Committee to continue working,” one of the party’s committee members Oktay Ozturk said.