5 Mayıs 2013 Pazar

Amalgams should be avoided

New Constitution Committee 
This week three events have to be noted on the economic front: Foreign trade and inflation figures for March and April respectively have been published, just as the second inflation report by the Central Bank. But this new information did not change the picture I described in my article of last Saturday titled “Peace process going well but not the economy.” Indeed, the Turkish economy is still facing the problems emanating from its structural weaknesses: Weak competitiveness, low productivity gains and relatively high inflation. Domestic demand revival requires loose monetary policy which is under course actually, the current account deficit (CAD) is smoothly rising as well as the real value of the Turkish Lira and finally inflation rigidity does not seem to become milder.

Then, today I prefer to discuss recent political developments regarding the peace process and the new constitution debate that are overshadowing the economic developments with their importance and urgency. I am afraid that the insistence of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) on the presidential system (different versions of it are on the table) has produced unproductive and dangerous amalgams on the political front. Recent assessments of different AK Party statements indicate that the AK Party is getting ready to play some kind of "give-and-take game" through the peace process as well the new constitution building process that are closely interfering.
No doubt that a definitive settlement with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) requires definitely political reforms. Some of them, like electoral system reform and a new political parties' law, do not need constitutional changes. If you demand the PKK to disarm and to continue its combat through legitimate polity you must free the political channels. The unavoidable amnesty will be the last step for sure, but reforming the existing electoral law by canceling the national threshold which is maintained at 10 percent just to prevent Kurdish parties to be represented in Parliament can easily be done right now, as it could be the case for a new political parties' law freeing them from the fetters put by military rulers in the 1980s.
We know that the AK Party has almost finished its homework for those reforms, but they have not been implemented at the desired level. Why? Most probably for a possible bargain with the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), the political arm of the PKK, concerning the incorporation of a presidential system in the new constitution. The BDP with more than 30 representatives in Parliament is able to secure the votes needed by the AK Party to bring its own constitution to a possible referendum, including, of course, some version of presidential system. Other critical reforms like a complete freedom for speaking the Kurdish tongue as well as an ethnic-neutral definition of citizenship, which require constitutional changes, seems also to be part of this bargaining. "I give you the reforms -- you give me the presidential system"; forgive me for this simplification, but I think it summarizes quite well the current political game.
The intellectual and business communities that strongly support the courageous polity of the AK Party in its efforts for peace, and I am one of them, are getting more and more anxious about this bargain. For a simple reason: It is risky and can easily fail. And this fail can jeopardize both the peace process and the hopes for a new constitution. The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) is harshly opposing any kind of presidential system but says they are ready to contribute to the peace process as well as the building of a new constitution.
We cannot know if the CHP is sincere or not, but its sincerity could be easily tested by giving up the insistence on a presidential system. On the other hand, the BDP is not very keen for such a system, but as it strongly supports the settlement process, it could be forced to compromise. But it could also be inclined to ask the AK Party for more reforms. Moreover, this bargain benefits the fierce opponents of the peace process like right wing nationalists and Kemalists.
Personally, I am not an irreducible opponent of a presidential regime. I think that it would be useless as long as the AK Party keeps its dominant position, and it seems that this will be the case for awhile. I am not afraid of a president with large executive powers, as long as an impartial judiciary is secured. The presidential system can still be debated and possibly adopted after the general elections of 2015. However, the AK Party's insistence could cost its own party -- not to mention the country -- too much.

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