Amid ongoing COVID-19 lockdown, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Chairman Devlet Bahçeli has announced that his party has completed the drafting of a 100-article constitution in line with his promise he made during the party’s general convention in mid-March.
He did not publicize the draft and informed that his party would first share it with his partner at the People’s Alliance, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). It’s understood that officials from the MHP and the AKP will come together in the coming weeks to study over the former’s draft before shaping a road map on how to proceed for a common constitutional proposal.
If the AKP and the MHP agree, the latter will share its draft with the political parties and the non-governmental organizations and later with the public opinion for a broader discussion. It can also be that they may work on the MHP’s draft and turn it into the People’s Alliance’s draft. As can be recalled, Erdoğan has suggested that his government was planning to submit a drafted constitution to public opinion in the first quarter of 2022. In this regard, Bahçeli’s move is seen as a well-calculated action to support Erdoğan’s bid for the new charter.
First, Bahçeli’s move will surely bring about an impetus to the People’s Alliance’s efforts to divert the political agenda towards the new constitution at a moment when the country is struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic and its negative impact on the Turkish economy. It may also lead to more accelerated work between AKP and MHP officials to compromise over a single text.
Second, both the AKP and the MHP will continue to use pressure on the opposition parties to come up with their constitutional proposals in a bid to drive a wedge between the two biggest components of the Nation Alliance, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the İYİ (Good) Party with the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).
The AKP and the MHP have long been accusing the CHP and the İYİ Party of holding secret negotiations with the HDP over a new charter and of promising to change the first four articles of the current constitution that stipulates the continuation of the unitary character of the Republic of Turkey.
The Nation Alliance will not answer these calls and will try to stay focused on current economic and political problems the country is facing with.
Instead of engaging in discussions over a new charter, they will continue to highlight the democratic deficiencies as well as continued problems over the principle of the rule of law in Turkey.
Third, Bahçeli’s move is also aiming to undermine the opposition’s campaign to discredit the executive-presidential system. The opposition Nation Alliance vows, if elected, its priority will be replacing the current model with what it calls a strengthened parliamentary system. Although it has not yet introduced a draft to explain what it means by the strengthened parliamentary system, both CHP and İYİ Party leaders underline that they will outline a set of principles ahead of the general elections.