As expected, the Turkish parliament has refused the outgoing president’s veto of its amendment that would adopt, among other things, direct presidential elections. Thanks to BBC Monitoring* and the Lexis-Nexis subscription, I have finally seen an overview of some of the details of the amendments.
First of all, the president would be elected by two-round majority, and would be eligible for two five-year terms. (Currently the president is elected by parliament for a single seven-year term.) The first round of voting in Turkey’s first direct presidential election would be held within 40 days of the promulgation of the amendments.
The term of parliament would be cut from five years to four. Another article of the amendment package would reduce the quorum required for parliament to conduct business to 184 deputies (one third of the membership).
The president can still delay this amendment further by calling a referendum (which would be quite likely to pass). He cannot veto the package again or propose further amendments to it.
If there is a referendum, the package of items referred to above will be voted as a single question, according to the BBC Monitoring article. However, there is yet another twist regarding timing:
If the law reduces the lead time for a referendum from 120 days to 40 days as has been earlier disclosed, then the referendum cannot be held in time before the 22 July elections. The lead time for a referendum must be reduced to less than 40 days in order to hold the referendum before 22 July. If the 120-day period cannot be reduced but the constitutional amendments go into effect in the meantime, a referendum can be held only in October 2007 [sentence as published]. If the lead time amendment cannot be implemented by 22 July, then the constitutional amendments may become void. When a new parliament is elected, bills that could not be put into effect by the previous parliament are considered void. [bracketed text before this was in the original BBC item.]
There was yet another article to amend the constitution that passed in May, separate from the larger package. This article would make the election of independents candidates more difficult. It is complex, so I will quote a passage from BB Monitoring:
In response to the decision by the DTP [Democratic Society Party] to run in the elections using independent candidates, the AKP withdrew its measure to implement in the coming elections the amendment reducing the minimum age for election to parliament to 25 and, with the support of the CHP, enacted a constitutional amendment that will place the names of the independent candidates on the single composite ballot slip. Although the number of votes for this amendment was much higher than the 330-367 interval that would require a referendum, the president can still veto it and require that it go to a referendum.
DEHAP [Democratic People's Party] won 1,933,000 votes in November 2002 but still could not clear the national electoral threshold. As a result, the AKP and CHP were able to capture nearly 40 “extra” seats in the Assembly. The AKP and CHP think that it would be easier for independent candidates to get elected if voters are presented with individual ballot slips that have only their names on them and that this “opens the way to manipulation” in the East and the Southeast. By including the names of the independent candidates in a lengthy ballot slip, the AKP and CHP hope to stop the DTP [from gaining substantial number of seats in the Assembly].
Several of these provisions concern question that either I posted previously or others have raised in the comments. (Click on “Turkey” above to see the previous discussions.)
While parliamentary elections are set for 22 July, it looks unlikely that the first round of presidential elections could be the same date, as the ruling AK party had hoped. The veto by the current “mostly ceremonial” president may make a difference in the outcome of this showdown over the selection of a president and the extent of authority the AKP ultimately will have.
A concluding question for which I do not have the answer: Can the AKP, which won its parliamentary majority on only a third of the votes (thanks to the 10% threshold and opposition fragmentation), win a nationwide majority for its presidential candidate? Apparently they think so.
* BBC Monitoring Europe – Political, 13 May, 2007.