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Erdoğan hints at referendum on new constitution in absence of consensus among parties

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has hinted that a public referendum could be held on a constitution jointly drafted by his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its election allies if the parties in parliament can’t reach consensus on a draft.

“Our aim is that all parties in parliament lend … support to the development of a new constitution. If the desired ground for compromise can’t be reached, we, as the People’s Alliance, are determined to present our draft to the discretion of our nation with other parties that support us,” Erdoğan said at a meeting with AKP provincial chairmen on Thursday.

He was referring to the election alliance between the ruling AKP and its allies, the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Grand Unity Party (BBP), which have been working to develop their own constitutional drafts, according to Erdoğan.

“The MHP presented its draft to us. We know the other parties are doing the same, and our [AKP] draft is finished,” Erdoğan said, adding that they will evaluate all drafts prepared by the parties towards the end of the year and will seek ways to turn them into a common proposal.

In early May MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli announced a 100-article constitution drafted by his party to replace the country’s current charter, which retains the unchangeability of the founding principles of the Turkish Republic defined in the first three articles, prohibits any proposals for their modification and makes reference to a “Turkish nation.”

The MHP’s text also retains the presidential system of governance, which was adopted in Turkey following a referendum in 2017, and strips the country’s Constitutional Court of its status as a top court, giving it a special status.

Bahçeli shocked many when he called for the closure of the Constitutional Court after the court returned an indictment seeking closure of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in March, saying it could not continue to operate as currently structured and that Turks are capable of and have the right to build a new top court that is “in line with the nation’s history.”

A constitutional draft introduced by Meral Akşener, leader of the İYİ (Good) Party, during her party’s group meeting on Wednesday stipulates a “better and stronger parliamentary system” in which a president is expected to stay in office for only one term of six years

Turkey currently has a constitution that was drafted in the aftermath of a military coup in 1980. The 1982 Constitution has undergone many amendments but is still criticized for being far from democratic and liberal.

Over the past several months, Erdoğan and his AKP officials have talked about the need for a new constitution for Turkey; however, critics say Erdoğan is far from allowing the people to enjoy even the freedoms granted by the current constitution.

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